- Fireworks: The Laws and Liabilities You Need to Know for 4th of July Weekend
Fireworks: The Laws and Liabilities You Need to Know for 4th of July Weekend
As Michigan summer progresses, fireworks are once again taking the stage for Independence Day celebrations across the state. Cities and organizations throughout the state are getting ready to mark July 4th with festivals, parades, and, of course, thrilling displays of fireworks. At the same time, many Michiganders are planning their own backyard celebrations which, of course, increases the potential for injuries. As a result, up to 10,000 people are injured in amateur firework accidents each year. In fact, out of all the states in the country, Michigan sees the fifth-highest occurrences of firework-related injuries.
With the Fourth of July mere days away, this a perfect time to remind Michiganders of the state’s fireworks laws, discuss common-sense pyrotechnics safety tips, and offer our help if you or your property suffer as a result of someone’s negligent use of fireworks.
What Michigan State Law Says About Fireworks
In 2018, Michigan law permitted local governments to enact their own fireworks ordinances. This legislature determined that unless a locality puts an ordinance in place, fireworks are permitted based on overriding state law, which states the following, according to State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer: “If no action is taken at the local government level, state law allows for fireworks to be used all year long. Simply put, if there is no local ordinance restricting fireworks, then there are no local fireworks restrictions in your municipality.”
Michigan’s 2018 fireworks law goes on to say that even if a locality does enact an ordinance to limit fireworks, local governments are forbidden from banning them during the following dates and times:
- December 31 until 1:00 a.m. on January 1
- The Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day, until 11:45 p.m.
- June 29 to July 4, until 11:45 p.m.
- July 5, if it falls on a Friday or Saturday, until 11:45 p.m.
- The Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day, until 11:45 p.m.
Outside of those specific times and dates, your local government is free to enact rules that limit the use of fireworks. So, it’s up to you to find out if your locality has such an ordinance — because disobeying the local regulations can result in a civil fine of up to $1,000.
For example, the City of Troy has enacted a fairly stringent ordinance limiting fireworks displays by citizens. Without obtaining a special permit, Troy residents can legally ignite permitted fireworks only on the dates specified in the state’s list above. Numerous other Detroit suburbs, including Royal Oak, Southfield, Taylor, Warren, and many more localities across Michigan have enacted various fireworks ordinances of their own. Again, it’s up to you to learn your own community’s rules, which you can usually locate with a simple Google search.
You should also know that according to the state law, fireworks cannot be ignited by individuals in streets, roads, or public parks anywhere in Michigan. Fireworks can only be set off by citizens on their own private property. Anywhere else, and they must have the explicit permission of the property owner. And, of course, it’s always against the law to set off fireworks anywhere in the state if you’ve been drinking or using drugs.
Finally, according to the state law, if you kill or injure someone, or cause damage to property by using fireworks, you are subject to felony charges that could land you in jail for up to five years and result in fines up to $10,000. Not to mention that you could find yourself subject to civil lawsuits brought by injured parties (we can help you in such an event — more on that below).
How to Avoid Fireworks-Related Injuries
It’s important to note that close to 75% of all fireworks injuries take place during the months of June and July. Furthermore, fireworks injuries are most prevalent in children under 15. However, that doesn’t render adults immune from firework-related injury. In 2014, Detroit meteorologist and WXYZ personality Dave Rexroth tragically lost an eye during a pyrotechnic mishap. Even more horrifically, Matiss Kivlenieks, a 24-year-old goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets, lost his life two summers ago when a firework struck him in the chest at a Novi barbecue.
Michigan has been proactive in offering advice on how to stay safe when using fireworks. But any time one uses explosive devices, they assume the risk of harm. Here are a few guidelines for citizens who want to enjoy fireworks without endangering themselves or others:
- Have an adult supervise fireworks activities, including sparklers.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance.
- Keep people and pets out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Light fireworks outdoors on a driveway or other paved surface at least 25 feet away from houses and highly flammable materials such as dry grass or mulch.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never lean over a firework when igniting it — the farther away your head/face is, the better.
- Fireworks send shrapnel flying — use protective eye wear.
- Stay 500 feet away from ignited fireworks and use proper ear protection if you’re setting them off.
- Douse spent fireworks in a bucket of water before discarding them.
- Never experiment with or make your own fireworks.
- Don’t allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Never try to re-light “duds” or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully. Rather, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak them in a bucket of water.
What Kinds of Fireworks are Legal in Michigan?
Unless you’re a licensed pyrotechnician, Michigan law limits you to purchasing the following types of legal consumer fireworks (for a more complete list, consult this document from the state’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs department):
- Roman candles
- Bottle rockets
- Aerial spinners (helicopters)
- Smoke devices of various types
The state fire marshal offers some particularly cautionary advice regarding sparklers, noting that according to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than half of sparkler injury victims are kids under 14. So, parents should carefully supervise their children even when using “tame” fireworks like sparklers, firecrackers, and bottle rockets, which account for most fireworks injuries.
What Are the Most Common Types of Fireworks Injuries?
As mentioned, anytime someone uses explosives for recreational purposes, they potentially make themselves vulnerable to bodily harm. And while injuries can range from relatively innocuous to catastrophic, these are the most frequent types you may encounter at a Fourth of July celebration gone awry.
- Burns to Hands or Fingers. These are the most common form of fireworks injury and can be identified by redness or pain, blisters in severe cases, and white/leathery skin in the most extreme cases. Minor burns can be treated by cleaning and over-the-counter pain medication, but all other burns need emergency treatment.
- Eye Injuries. Eye injuries can range from minor burns to, as in Dave Rexroth’s unfortunate case, complete loss of vision or eye. Exploding fireworks send debris flying into the air and can easily pierce eyeballs. If you sustain an eye injury during amateur fireworks show, there is no first aid — seek emergency treatment immediately.
- Fractures or Lacerations to Hands. In addition to burns, fireworks can cause severe hand injuries. These include deep cuts, damaged tendons, and broken bones. Severe hand injuries require emergency treatment, but first aid can help while awaiting assistance first responders or medical professionals. Remove any jewelry, cover the hand with a clean cloth, put an ice pack on it, and keep the hand elevated.
- Loss of Fingers. A much more severe version of a hand fracture, many hand injures from fireworks involve the loss of a finger or thumb. First aid in such a traumatic event would involve cleaning, applying a clean cloth/ice, keeping the hand elevated — or even applying a tourniquet to stave off bleeding. If part of a dismembered finger can be found, clean it with a saltwater solution. Then wrap it in gauze, place it in a watertight bag, put the bag on ice, and take the finger with you to the emergency room where it may be reattached through microsurgery or other medical procedures.
- Facial Injuries. Powerful fireworks can cause serious, even disfiguring injuries to the face. Besides harming the eyes, fireworks can burn the face, break bones, and even cause loss of facial tissue. As mentioned above, never light a fuse with your head bent over the firework. If you do get injured, keep your head at a level above your heart to lower intracranial pressure (ICP). Put a clean cloth over the injury, apply an ice pack, and seek emergency care as soon as possible.
- Hearing Loss. Very loud noise from fireworks can cause hearing loss, which can be temporary or permanent. Noise louder than 85 decibels can cause damage to hearing. To put that into perspective, a firework going off three feet away can be 150 decibels or more. Besides loss of hearing itself, symptoms can include ear pain and ringing in the ears. First aid for firework-induced hearing loss includes covering the ears and immediately distancing oneself from the noise. Then, make an appointment for an ear and hearing check with your doctor as soon as possible.
What If You’re Injured Due to Someone’s Fireworks Negligence?
No one would disagree that fireworks can be exciting, fun, and festive, but we all know plenty of people simply don’t use them appropriately. Pets are sometimes terrorized, insomniacs lose even more sleep than usual, and formerly friendly neighbors can become irritated by unexpected, late-night explosions. Even worse is that each year, innocent people are seriously injured — and accidental fires are started — by careless individuals.
In fact, one source says that July 4th brings with it the state’s highest daily risk for fires, many of which are caused by fireworks. While we can’t sue someone on your behalf for scaring your dog for example, we can help if you or someone you love are ever injured in a fireworks-related incident. The attorneys at Mike Morse Law Firm are here to help. Simply give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3646) or reach out to us online, and we’ll be there for you quicker than you can light a bottle rocket!