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Fireworks in Hampton Roads: What's legal in Virginia and across the 757

The cities in Hampton Roads have varying laws about fireworks, so we broke it down.

NORFOLK, Va. — Fourth of July usually means fireworks, but not everything is legal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and some cities have even stricter rules.

The Virginia Department of Fire Programs-State Fire Marshal’s Office says that for the most part, "any firework that explodes, moves on the ground or in the air, or shoots a projectile is illegal in Virginia."

There is a list of "permissible fireworks," which are defined in the Code of Virginia, that can be legally sold, possessed, or used within the state. A list of permissible fireworks is available by clicking here.

Local ordinances can add even further restrictions and prohibitions on what is and is not acceptable to set off.

Here's a breakdown of what's legal and what's not in the Seven Cities.

Norfolk:

Sec. 17.1-44. Amendments and supplements.

(25) Fireworks prohibited: The manufacture of fireworks is prohibited within the jurisdiction. The possession or use of fireworks is prohibited within the city, except for fireworks approved by permit according to the rules and regulations of the fire official.

(26) Additional fireworks: In addition to the items defined as fireworks in other parts of this code (SFPC), the term fireworks shall include pinwheels, fountains and pharaoh serpents. The manufacture, sale, possession or use of any fireworks, without the permission of the fire official, is unlawful. 

Sec. 25.2-42. Use and possession of fireworks and explosives.

(a) No person shall have in his possession, or set off or otherwise cause to explode or discharge or burn in any park, any firecrackers, torpedo rockets or other fireworks or explosives of inflammable material, or discharge them or throw them into any park from land or highways adjacent thereto. This prohibition includes any substance, compound, mixture or article which, when in conjunction with any substance or compound, would be dangerous from any of the foregoing standpoints.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) above, fireworks displays or shows may be authorized in a park by permit granted by the director and approved by the fire chief.


Virginia Beach:

Sec. 12-43.2. Fireworks and pyrotechnic displays unlawful; exceptions.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section it shall be unlawful for any person to transport, manufacture, assemble, store, sell, offer or display for sale, or to buy, use, possess, ignite or explode any firecracker, torpedo, sky rocket, sparkler, or other substance or device that contains any explosive or flammable compound or substance, and is intended or commonly known as fireworks, and which explodes, rises into the air or travels laterally, fires projectiles or discharges sparks into the air.

(b) The provision of this section shall not be applicable to (1) any organization or group of individuals which has been granted a permit by the fire official for the public or private display of fireworks or pyrotechnics, provided that such fireworks are stored, handled, transported and used in compliance with the terms and conditions of such permit; or (2) any federal, state or local government animal or fowl management agency agents acting within the scope of their lawful duties. Such agents shall provide the VBFMO with at least twenty-four (24) hours notice of intent to possibly employ pyrotechnic tactics.

(c) The fire marshal or any law enforcement officer shall be authorized to seize, take, remove or cause to be removed, at the expense of the owner, all fireworks offered or exposed for display or sale, stored or held in violation of this section.

(d)Violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.


Hampton:

The City of Hampton Prevention Code bans the use and possession of all fireworks, with the exception of sparklers. Permits are required for public or private display of fireworks or pyrotechnics. A million dollar bond and professionals trained to launch firecrackers are required to obtain a fireworks permit.

Certain types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles, may be purchased legally in other areas, but may not be possessed or used in the City of Hampton. Bringing unapproved fireworks from other jurisdictions in to the City of Hampton is an illegal act that constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor. Unapproved fireworks may be confiscated and the offending parties fined up to $1,200 and/or sentenced to up to one year in jail.


Newport News:

Sec. 16-20. - Fireworks permit required; permit fee.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to own, sell, possess, store, display, use, explode or manufacture pinwheels, sparklers, fountains or Pharaoh's serpents without a permit issued by the fire marshal. A fee of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) shall be paid before such permit may be issued.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, display or explode any other fireworks without a permit issued by the fire marshal.

(c) For purposes of this section, fireworks do not include pyrotechnic bird scaring devices.

(Ord. No. 4053-90, § 1; Ord. No. 4206-91, § 1; Ord. No. 6290-06; Ord. No. 6745-10, § 1)


Chesapeake:

In accordance with the local amendments to the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, it is illegal to possess, manufacture, store, sell, handle or use fireworks in Chesapeake. We ask that you leave the pyrotechnics to the experts!

Chapter 56 of the local amendments to the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code specifically addresses the use of explosives and fireworks. Here is the code:

5601.1.3 Fireworks. The possession, manufacture, storage, sale, handling and use of fireworks are prohibited.

Exceptions:

  1. Storage and handling of fireworks as permitted in Section 5604.
  2. Manufacture, assembly and testing of fireworks as permitted in Section 5605.
  3. The use of fireworks for display as permitted in Section 5608.

5601.2.4 Financial responsibility. Before a permit is issued, as required by Section 5601.2, the applicant shall file with the jurisdiction a corporate surety bond in the principal sum of $1,000,000 or a public liability insurance policy for the same amount, for the purpose of the payment of all damages to persons or property which arise from, or are caused by, the conduct of any act authorized by the permit upon which any judicial judgment results. The legal department of the jurisdiction may specify a greater amount is required. Government entities shall be exempt from this bond requirement.

5601.2.4.2 Fireworks display. The permit holder shall furnish a bond or certificate of insurance of $1,000,000 for the payment of all potential damages to a person or persons or to property by reason of the permitted display, and arising from any acts of the permit holder, the agent, employees or subcontractors. Fireworks displays shall be in accordance with guidelines established by the Fire Code Official.

5602.1 (Definition) Permissible Fireworks. Paper caps for toy pistols, toy guns, toy canes or other devices which use such caps that contain less than .25 grains (16 mg) of explosive content per cap.

5608.11 Retail display and sale. Fireworks shall not be displayed for retail sale, sold or accessible to the public within the City of Chesapeake.


Portsmouth: 

Possessing, storing, or selling fireworks in the City of Portsmouth is a class 1 misdemeanor, according to Sec. 13-101 - Sec. 13-106 of the Portsmouth Code of Ordinances.


Suffolk:

The Suffolk Fire Marshal’s Office says the use or sale of fireworks in the City of Suffolk is prohibited by City Code.

The Code states, "It shall be a violation of this Code for any person to store, to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any fireworks, except as provided in the rules and regulations issued by the fire official for the granting of permits for supervised public displays of fireworks by the jurisdiction, fair associations, amusement parks and other organizations.

Those in possession or observed igniting and deploying fireworks can be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor.

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