You Light It…We’ll Write It!, is a campaign targeting individuals who use illegal fireworks. Fire marshals and law enforcement officials throughout the tri-state area, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, will be joining forces enforcing these laws. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports the use of fireworks in the U.S. has risen from 67 million pounds to 236 million pounds over a 10 year span and therefore, the risk of fires set and injuries incurred by fireworks has also risen. Alarmed by these facts and the use of illegal fireworks, fire officials from across the region have launched an effort to inform the public about fireworks safety and have put in place an aggressive enforcement plan for the Fourth of July.
The use of illegal fireworks is dangerous and can lead to injuries, deaths and fires. According to CPSC, in 2011, there were an estimated 9.600 fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency rooms. Of those treated, 2 out of 5 were children under 15 years of age. During June 17, 2011 through July 17, 2011, there were an estimated 6,200 fireworks-related injuries (65% of the total estimated fireworks-related injuries for the year.) Between 2000–2011, there were 79 reported fireworks-related deaths; an average of 6.6 deaths per year. In 2009, 18,000 fires were fireworks-related causing $38 million in direct property loss. During the 4th of July holiday, fireworks use dramatically increases, increasing the risk of injuries, deaths and fires. Due to this increase, fire officials will step up patrols in their jurisdictions to confiscate illegal fireworks and are asking residents to help by reporting the use of banned fireworks to the fire department.
Illegal fireworks use often takes place at backyard parties, neighborhood displays and individuals' homes posing a great threat to life and property. Prince William fire officials alone have confiscated more than $10,000 worth of illegal fireworks, a fraction of the amount authorities said were discharged on the July 4th holiday in the DC Region. In the past, people are often surprised when their illegal fireworks are confiscated stating their purchase and possession were legal. Some jurisdictions allow a variety of fireworks regulated by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. Legal devices in many of the surrounding jurisdictions include cones, sparklers, sparkling devices and novelties. Illegal fireworks include Roman candles, skyrockets, aerial shells with mortars, and firecrackers. Prince William fire officials advise consumers to check their locality for a list of permissible fireworks prior to purchasing.
The legal devices most commonly used during Independence Day are bottle rockets -- the whistling, sparkling fireworks that shoot into the air, often turning a backyard display into a professional show. The problem is that you have no control over where it goes.
This year, as in the past, fire marshals and police officers will patrol the region, during the 4th of July weekend, looking for and confiscating illegal fireworks. Violators will be charged with the offence and will be required to appear in court. In Virginia, the use of illegal fireworks is a Class 1 misdemeanor in which a person could receive jail time of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $2,500.00.
Prince William fire officials are encouraging people to attend professionally supervised displays on the National Mall in Washington or at a number of shows at cities, towns, parks and other venues in the region.
For more information about selecting and using legal fireworks, or if you would like to safely dispose of illegal fireworks, contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at 703-792-6360, or visit our website at www.pwcgov.org/fire. Turning in illegal fireworks will not result in any fines or summons, and no questions will be asked.