State marshal hopes Ohioans stay safe during fireworks season

CLEVELAND - State Fire Marshal Robert R. Rielage cautions all Ohioans to stay safe and legal this Fourth of July fireworks season.

"Most fireworks illegal, and they are all inherently dangerous," said Rielage. The best way for Ohioans to celebrate America, as well as Ohio's bicentennial, is to attend their organized community display."

Rielage cited the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2001 statistics as an illustration of just how dangerous fireworks can be. Fireworks injuries sent 9,500 people to hospital emergencies rooms across the country in '01, the last year for which statistics are available. Approximately 74 percent of the injuries were burns to the hands, eyes and face. Children under the age of 15 comprised 47 percent of the victims. Even sparklers, popular among children, and considered harmless by most people, can reach temperatures above 1,200 Fahrenheit.

Under Ohio's fireworks law, stiff penalties can be applied for the illegal possession or discharge of fireworks. It is a first-degree misdemeanor for non-licensed individuals to discharge fireworks in Ohio, to falsify an application when purchasing fireworks, or to possess them for more than 48 or 72 hours without taking them to the designated out-of-state address. First-time offenders are subject up to a $1,000 fine and six months imprisonment. Subsequent violations become felonies of the fifth degree.

  • What Types of Fireworks are Legal in Ohio? ... The following four types of fireworks in Ohio are legal in the Buckeye State:
    Trick and Novelty Fireworks -- Trick and novelty fireworks (also known as exempted 1.4G fireworks) include items such as sparklers, snaps, glow snakes and smoke bombs. In general, these can be sold anywhere in Ohio and can be used anywhere in Ohio. However, some local communities have passed law that prevents these from being sold or used.
    1.3G Fireworks -- These are also known as display or exhibitor fireworks and include items such as aerial shells that are fired from mortars. They can only be sold by a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler, or Out of State Shipper. They can only be sold to a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler or exhibitor. They can only be discharged by a licensed exhibitor in accordance with Ohio laws regarding exhibitions.
    1.4 G Fireworks -- These are commonly referred to as consumer fireworks. They include items such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles and fountains. A licensed manufacturer or wholesaler can only sell these. Anyone over the age of 18 may purchase these items, but must sign a form stating that they will transport the fireworks outside the state of Ohio within 48 hours (or 72 for non-residents of Ohio). These fireworks cannot legally be discharged in the state of Ohio.
    1.4 G Special Effects -- This type of fireworks is theatrical and/or special pyrotechnics used before a proximate audience. They can only be sold by a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler, or Out of State Shipper. An Ohio licensed pyrotechnics exhibitor is the only person who can purchase and use this type of fireworks after the Authority Having Jurisdiction has issued a permit. This type of fireworks is sometimes referred to as “special effects”.
  • How Many Fireworks Stores are in Ohio?
    There are 43 licensed wholesalers in Ohio. A licensed wholesaler may sell trick and novelty, 1.3G and 1.4G fireworks. In addition, there are nine licensed manufacturers. They may manufacture fireworks as well as sell fireworks. In total, this makes 52 licensees who are authorized to sell fireworks in Ohio. There is currently a moratorium preventing the issuance of any new licenses.
  • What is a Purchaser Form?
    A purchaser form is required to be filled out when purchasing 1.4G fireworks. It requires the purchaser to certify that he will transport the fireworks out of state within 48 hours if he is an Ohio resident and 72 hours if he is not. A destination must be given.
  • Are There Penalties for improperly filling out a purchaser form?
    First time violations of fireworks laws are first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to a $1000 fine and six months in jail. Subsequent violations are a fifth degree felony. Violations include falsifying the purchaser form, failing to fill it out, failing to transport fireworks out of state within the specified time period, and discharging fireworks. In addition to criminal prosecution, licensed fireworks manufacturers and wholesalers are subject to administrative action for violations.
  • What are the Dangers of Using Fireworks?
    All fireworks are inherently dangerous. Consumer fireworks cannot be legally discharged in Ohio. For those who choose to use novelty items, the State Fire Marshal urges extreme caution. While legal, these can still pose serious health problems, including severe burns, injuries to the hands, eyes and face, and even blindness or hearing loss. For example, sparklers burn at up to 1800°, hot enough to melt gold. The risk of severe burns is real. In addition, puncture-type injuries to the eye are not uncommon. Also, most fireworks require a source of ignition, creating other hazards associated with supplying children with matches or lighters. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a show by a licensed exhibitor.
  • How Many Injuries Result From Fireworks Use?
    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in 2001, about 9,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks. Approximately half of the injuries were burns. Nearly half of the injuries involved the hands, eyes and head. About 50 percent of the victims were under 15 years of age. The CPSC also reported 4 deaths related to fireworks in 2001. (most recent report) There is no system for tracking such injuries in Ohio.
  • What is the State Fire Marshal Doing in 2003?
    The Department of Commerce has taken several steps to increase fireworks safety, both in showrooms and for public exhibitions. The focus is on the regulation and education of the fireworks industry and those involved in the exhibition of fireworks.
    In 2003 to improve safety at exhibitions, the marshal's Office has been involved in service training classes for exhibitors, fire service, wholesalers and manufacturers. The Marshal’s Office has a fireworks incident team (FIT) plan of operations to respond to the scene of any fireworks accident to investigate and assist local authorities. Investigations by FIT have lead to both Administrative and Criminal action being taken against exhibitors who fail to follow the regulations.
    In order to improve showroom safety, we have assigned a special team of Fire Safety Inspectors from our Code Enforcement Bureau to inspect the showrooms in the State more closely to make sure safety is being maintained.
  • What is the Process for Fireworks Exhibitions?
    Only licensed fireworks exhibitors can perform fireworks exhibitions. There are approximately 553 exhibitors in Ohio. All employees of exhibitors must be registered with the State Fire Marshal. As of June 5, 2003, licensed exhibitors had registered 1,502 assistants. Exhibitors must undergo six hours of training on fireworks laws and safety every three years, and must, in turn, relay that training to all employees on an annual basis.
    A permit from local authorities is required for all exhibitions. That permit requires the signature of both the local fire chief and law enforcement official. It specifies the date, time, location and various other parameters of how the exhibition will take place. Law requires an inspection using a state fire marshal issued checklist of the shoot site before, during and after the exhibition. During the shoot, only registered employees and the certified fire safety official are allowed within the perimeter of the shoot area.
  • What Law Changes are in Effect for 2003?
    No changes in the fireworks rules, regulations and laws have taken place this year.
  • Does the State Fire Marshal have a Web site about fireworks?
    Yes. It is
    http://www.com.state.oh.us/ODOC/sfm/Pyromain.htm.