Mich. officials: Obey law, be safe with fireworks on the fourth
Nothing says the Fourth of July like the rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air.
But before launching a neighborhood fireworks show, officials say you should make sure you're not breaking any laws and that you're using the explosive devices safely.
"You have the right in Michigan to be patriotic and set off your fireworks," said Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. "You also have to realize there are ordinances in place that limit when and where."
State law, the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, allows consumer-grade fireworks — such as roman candles, bottle rockets and other explosives that leave the ground — to be legally sold and bought in Michigan.
The law was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December 2011 and went into effect in January 2012.
The next year, it was amended to allow municipalities to ban fireworks except during the day and early night hours of federal holidays as well as the day before and after them.
Under the law, Michiganders can discharge consumer-grade fireworks the day before, the day of and the day after a national holiday, if their municipality has enacted a local fireworks ordinance. Most communities have and because of the state law, their ordinances prohibit the discharge of fireworks between midnight and 8 a.m. The exception is New Year's Day when the quiet hours are from 1-8 a.m.
Sehlmeyer said the law also mandates a few other important things.
For instance, it forbids anyone from lighting fireworks while intoxicated or selling consumer-grade fireworks to anyone under the age of 18.
Also, retailers of consumer-grade fireworks have to be certified by the state every year. The Bureau of Fire Services of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs polices that part of the law. Violations are misdemeanors and the first offense is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Sehlmeyer said the bureau has agents actively policing vendors and looking for illegal operations.
If anyone suspects a seller isn't certified or selling illegal fireworks, they should call the department's Fireworks Complaint Hotline at (517) 388-6715. Callers can remain anonymous.
In addition, the law forbids anyone from discharging consumer-grade fireworks on public property, school property or church property. It also requires a person setting off fireworks on someone else's private property to get the owner's permission. Violations are misdemeanors with a $500 fine.
Sehlmeyer said consumers should check their local municipal ordinances before setting off a pyrotechnics show. "It's just a good, safe practice," he said.
In Macomb County, the city of Warren intends to continue its strict enforcement of fireworks. Warren is Michigan's third most populous city.
Jim Fouts, Warren's mayor, has led the charge to keep fireworks in his city in check for the last 10 years.
“When fireworks are discharged, I receive many calls from upset residents about the impact of loud fireworks on their pets, senior citizens, and their peace and tranquility," he said in a statement. "I still believe this law should be rescinded because of the disruption, police overtime, blight, and noise caused by the law.”
Launching consumer grade fireworks in Warren is prohibited between midnight at 8 a.m. from July 3-5.
Fouts said police officers, firefighters, property maintenance inspectors, park employees and volunteers will be patrolling the city's neighborhoods this July 4th. He'll also ride along with a police officer to monitor for fireworks violations.
Meanwhile, officials with other cities in Metro Detroit remind residents of the fireworks regulations. Dearborn is among them.
"We know people like to celebrate the holiday and we think that's great," said Mary Launderoche, a Dearborn city spokewoman. "But we like to remind people of when and where they can legally discharge fireworks. We also ask them to be courteous to their neighbors and, more importantly, be safe for themselves and their neighbors."
Dan Rodriguez, assistant Farmington Hills police chief, said the department traditionally steps up fireworks enforcement around the summer holidays but is always looking for violators of the state law and the city's fireworks ordinance.
"We get a lot of calls and our officers are very sensitive to discharging fireworks after hours and beyond what the law allows," he said. "You'll see more enforcement right around the holidays."
Rodriguez said police try to work with residents and usually issue a warning for first time offenders. Repeat offenders are typically cited, he said.
And if consumers are going to set off fireworks for the Fourth, Sehlmeyer said he wants them to do it safely.
Fireworks are explosives after all, and any mishaps can result in irreparable injury or death, he said.
To minimize tragedies, Sehlmeyer said he recommends keeping people and pets out of range before discharging fireworks and lighting them 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.
“Remember to keep the kids away from the fireworks, and always keep a fire extinguisher or bucket of water handy when lighting fireworks,” he said.