You’re seeing billboards as you drive around Western New York telling you about all the fireworks available for purchase. But wait a second… aren’t they illegal in New York State?
Not since last year, when several counties across the state passed local ordinances allowing them. And that’s leading to a lot of confusion. These billboards can be seen along Route 5 in Lackawanna, where fireworks aren't even allowed:
These are the counties where you can use some types of fireworks:
But you can't use any kinds of fireworks in these counties:
And that means you can buy fireworks in the counties where they are legal, but if you bring them into a county where they are not, you could be charged with unlawfully dealing with fireworks and dangerous fireworks, a class B misdemeanor. The punishment for that charge depends on the number and type of fireworks you're caught with.
There are also other rules – you have to be 18 to buy fireworks and you can only buy them from June 1 to July 5. Plus only a few kinds of fireworks ARE legal.
Their technical term is “sparkling devices” and include fireworks that are “ground based or handheld devices that produce a shower of colored sparks and or a colored flame, audible crackling or whistling noise and smoke.” These kinds of fireworks can be held in your hand or mounted on a base or spike and are “limited in sizes that range from 1 to 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition.”
So think of sparkling fountains, sparklers on wooden sticks, things that smoke, confetti-filled party poppers, paper wrapped snappers, etc. You still can’t use fireworks like bottle rockets, roman candles, spinners, sparklers on metal sticks or things that shoot off in the air.
If you’re living in one of the counties that DOES allow fireworks, even though they aren’t the big kind, you still need to be careful.
Sparklers burn at temperatures of around 2,000F. In 2013, there were eight deaths and 11,400 reported injuries in the U.S. from fireworks and 31 percent of those injuries were from sparklers! Many injured were under the age of 18.
Other safety tips:
- Only use fireworks outdoors (seems obvious, but you'd be surprised)
- Wear eye protection
- Do one-at-a-time
- Never point a firework towards you or anyone else
- Just like medications or weapons, lock them away from children
- Don’t use fireworks when under the influence
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby (it’s been dry lately!)
- Never try to relight or pick up fireworks that didn’t work; douse them in water
Finally, if you’re leaving Western New York and want to bring fireworks with you to your Fourth of July destination, these are the other counties in New York State that allow them: