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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

A quick guide to Michigan fireworks laws, pyrotechnics safety, and statewide Independence Day celebrations.

As Michigan marks its continuing recovery from the pandemic, fireworks are once again taking the stage for Independence Day celebrations across the state. With last year’s COVID-related cancellations in the rearview mirror, cities and organizations throughout the state are getting ready to mark July 4th (and summer weeks surrounding it) with fun festivals and, of course, thrilling displays of fireworks. At the same time, many Michiganders are planning their own backyard celebrations. All of which makes this a perfect time to remind everyone of the state’s fireworks laws, to discuss common-sense pyrotechnics safety tips, and to offer our help if you or your property suffer as a result of someone’s negligent use of fireworks.

What the 2018 State Law Says about Fireworks

In 2018, Michigan law was revised to permit local governments (cities, towns, villages, townships) to enact their own fireworks ordinances. Essentially, the legislature determined that unless a locality puts an ordinance in place, fireworks are permitted based on the overriding state law, which says 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 with that if you ever fall victim to someone else’s fireworks foolishness — see “What If You Get Burned” below).

How to Avoid Fireworks-related Injuries

Along with explaining how the law works, Michigan has been proactive in offering advice on how to stay safe when using fireworks. Here are a few state 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 handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • 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.

So, 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
  • Firecrackers
  • Bottle rockets
  • Aerial spinners (helicopters)
  • Cones
  • Snakes
  • Smoke devices of various types
  • Sparklers

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 be sure to carefully supervise their children even when using “tame” fireworks like sparklers.

Where to See Fireworks Displays Across the Great Lakes State

If you’d rather not take your chances on using fireworks at home, there are dozens of opportunities to enjoy professional-grade fireworks shows this year throughout Michigan.  There’s even a website (https://michiganfireworks.com) that can help you plan some exciting day trips, so you can get more than enough fireworks displays to make up for those you missed in 2020!

Sadly, the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival won’t resume its famous fireworks display on the Detroit River until 2022. And one of this year’s largest displays in Michigan was the 2021 Ford Fireworks near Lake St. Clair which just took place on June 28th. If you missed that event, here are some other upcoming highlights as published by michiganfireworks.com:

July 1 — Royal Oak (Red Run Golf Course)

July 1,2,3 — Bay City (Wenonah Park)

July 2 — Lexington (Lexington Harbor Park)

July 4 — St. Clair (Palmer Park)

July 4 — Mackinaw City (Conkling Heritage Park)

July 10 — Taylor (Heritage Park)

July 22 — Wixom (Sibley Park)

July 23, 24 — Charlevoix (East Park)

What If You Get Burned by Someone’s Fireworks?

No one would disagree that fireworks can be exciting, fun, and enjoyable, but we all know there are people who simply don’t use them appropriately. Pets are sometimes terrorized, insomniacs can lose even more sleep than usual, and formerly friendly neighbors can become irritated by unexpected, unwelcome 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, by way of example, scaring your dog (even though we may wish to), if you or someone you love are ever injured as a result of someone’s negligence when using fireworks, or if your house catches fire due to a fireworks-related incident, the attorneys at Mike Morse Law Firm are here to help. Give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3646), and we’ll be there for you quicker than you can launch a bottle rocket!