Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was originally prepared by Lawrence T. Bennett, Esq., program chair, Fire Science Education at the University of Cincinnati, and reviewed by Douglas Wehmeyer, Battalion Chief, Deerfield Township Fire & Rescue Department; updated by Lawrence T. Bennett.
Ohio Law Governs Fireworks
Q: What kinds of fireworks can be lawfully set off in Ohio?
A: Only “novelty and trick” fireworks, such as party poppers and glow worms can be discharged by unlicensed individuals. Section 3743.01 of the Ohio Revised Code defines these novelty and trick items as follows:
“(1) Devices that produce a small report intended to surprise
the user, including, but not limited to, booby traps, cigarette
loads, party poppers, and snappers.;
(2) Snakes or glow worms;
(3) Smoke devices;
(4) Trick matches.”
Q: Can traditional firecrackers and roman candles be set off by unlicensed individuals in Ohio?
A: No. Traditional firecrackers, roman candles, bottle rockets and similar items are all classified as “consumer fireworks.” Individuals may buy “consumer fireworks” from an Ohio licensed retailer, but they can not be discharged in Ohio, and must be transported to another state within 48 hours of purchase (72 hours if the buyer is not an Ohio resident). “Consumer fireworks are regulated as “1.4G Fireworks” by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Individuals over the age of 18 may purchase them, but must sign a form certifying that the purchaser will transport the fireworks outside of Ohio within the required time.
Q: What about M80s, cherry bombs, and other powerful devices?
A: They may not be discharged or even possessed in Ohio without a special license. See Ohio Fire Marshal’s “2011 Fireworks Redbook,”http://www.com.ohio.gov/fire/FireworksRedbook.aspx. M80s and similar devices are so powerful that they are classified as “explosive devices” instead of “fireworks.” In Ohio, it is illegal for anyone to even possess any explosive device without a special license. Since 1976, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission has restricted all “1.4G Fireworks” to no more than 50 milligrams of powder, with three- to nine-second fuses.
Q: Are there criminal penalties if individuals violate the fireworks law?
A: Yes. First-time offenders are normally charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If they plead guilty or are convicted, they can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, and also fined up to $1,000. A subsequent conviction is a fifth degree felony, potentially punishable by a prison term of up to one year.
Q: On the 4th of July, who may set off the large fireworks displays?
A: These aerial shells, known as “1.3G Fireworks” can only discharged by a licensed exhibitor with a local permit. The permit must be approved by both the local fire chief and the local chief law enforcement officer, after the exhibition site has been inspected using an Ohio Fire Marshal checklist. The Fireworks & Explosive Unit of the State Fire Marshal (http://www.com.ohio.gov/fire/fmfeMain.aspx) has issued licenses to about 504 exhibitors in Ohio, who must take six hours of training on fireworks laws and safety every three years, and must review this information annually with their employees. These exhibitors employ about 1,240 registered assistants who are allowed to assist in discharging the fireworks at the discharge site.
Q: Are there licensed manufacturers and wholesalers in Ohio?
A: Yes. There are six licensed manufacturers in Ohio, and 42 licensed wholesalers. The Ohio Revised Code was amended, effective June 1, 1998, to increase the safety of fireworks retail showrooms. These showrooms may not exceed 5,000 square feet, and must be equipped with “interlinked” fire detection, fire suppression, smoke exhaust, and smoke evacuation systems that have been approved by the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Division of Industrial Compliance. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also has sought to increase the safety of retail fireworks stores nationwide.
- Use of consumer fireworks dramatically increases risk of fire and injury (yubanet.com)
- Officials recommend sticking to professional fireworks displays (wvgazette.com)
- Lean the rules before buying fireworks (goerie.com)