Want to make a bang this Fourth of July? Not so fast, if you live in the city.
“If it goes boom or if it goes up in the air, it’s going to be illegal,” says Eddie Slone, assistant fire chief of the Frankfort Fire Department.
“Anything that was illegal two years ago is going to be illegal this year.”
It’s a different story for county residents.
“Anything that the state says is legal, is legal,” Franklin County Fire Chief Gary Watts says.
Last year, the state changed its regulations to allow for the sale and usage of certain fireworks like bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers. It was the first time since the early 1980s that Kentucky residents didn’t have to cross the border to Indiana or Tennessee to purchase those fireworks.
But after fireworks-related complaints spiked last summer, the City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance at a recent meeting that reinstates the state’s former regulations.
It also creates a timeframe for when those items deemed legal, such as sparklers and glow worms, can be used.
Revelers can only use approved items in city limits between 10 a.m. and midnight on July 3 and 4, the ordinance says. For all other days (except Memorial Day and New Year’s Eve, which will have extended hours), they can only be used between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Anyone setting off fireworks outside of those hours is subject to a fine between $50 and $500.
Frankfort Fire Chief Wallace Possich says the time frame was initiated after much of last year’s more than 200 fireworks-related complaints came from city residents angry with neighbors making noise into the wee morning hours.
Possich says he hopes residents won’t be put off by the new time restrictions.
“I hope that … people think of it more from a courtesy-to-your-neighbor standpoint than from a legal standpoint,” Possich said.
But the ordinance isn’t entirely complaint-driven. As fire chief, Possich says he wants to put restrictions on fireworks to keep Frankfort safe.
“We’ve been fortunate we haven’t had a lot of fireworks-related injuries, but the potential is certainly there,” Possich said. He referred to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, which said fireworks caused about 15,500 fires and sent at least 9,000 – many of whom children under 14 – to the emergency room in 2010.
Watts agrees with Possich, saying even though larger fireworks like bottle rockets and Roman candles are legal in the county, his advice for residents on how to stay safe is to let the pros handle it.
“They shouldn’t set them off at all … they’re dangerous,” Watts said. “They’re beautiful, but they’re beautiful when they’re in the hands of experts.”
Watts said he hasn’t been a fan of fireworks since a 4-year-old boy was struck and killed by a Roman candle a few years ago when Watts was working for the Ashland Fire Department.
Watts briefly spoke on the dangers of fireworks at a Fiscal Court meeting last month, when magistrates discussed passing the county’s own fireworks ordinance. But after the court couldn’t agree on the terms, Judge-Executive Ted Collins scratched the ordinance from the agenda and tabled the discussion for a future meeting.
For now, county residents have to abide by the state’s fireworks regulations, which allow for the use of fireworks like Roman candles, firecrackers and bottle rockets.
Larger display fireworks, like those at professional fireworks shows, are still illegal.
A state regulation also prohibits people under 18 to sell or purchase fireworks. It also bans vendors from selling fireworks to anyone under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Fireworks can’t be used within 200 feet of a structure, vehicle or another person.
As for whether the county will be overloaded with city residents trying to make a bang this Fourth of July, Watts laughed and said he isn’t expecting any problems, regardless of the city’s new ordinance.
“I think they’ll set the fireworks off wherever they want to,” he said.
Here is a list of fireworks that are allowed to be used in both the city and county. This list is not exhaustive. Contact local law enforcement or City Commission with any questions.
Ground and hand-held sparkling devices:
>Dipped stick-sparklers or wire sparklers
>Toy smoke devices
Audible ground devices:
>Auto burglar alarms
Types of fireworks illegal in city limits: