The new year is approaching and backyard pyrotechnicians are getting ready to start blowing stuff up, patriotically. Depending on your neighborhood, they may have started already.
But is it legal?
Sometimes. Noisy or projectile fireworks are illegal in Florida apart from an exemption I’ll mention later. But a 2020 Florida law established three fireworks “holidays” when they are allowed: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day. So if you fire off your “Hammer of Thunder” megabox from your driveway Saturday or Sunday night, you’re fine as far as the state is concerned.
But what does Florida consider a legal firework? And what about the rest of the year? Here’s what you need to know about staying legal and safe with fireworks this New Year’s holiday.
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How does Florida define fireworks?
According to Florida law, fireworks are “any combustible or explosive composition or substance or combination of substances … prepared for the purpose of producing a visible or audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration, or detonation.”
Basically, that includes anything that flies, visibly explodes and/or audibly goes boom with the notable exception of sparklers, cap guns, smoke bombs, cigarette loads, party poppers, and snappers, which were already legal to use in Florida. Yes, Florida statutes define cigarette loads.
Are fireworks legal in Florida?
In two instances, yes. First, those three holidays are exempt from the fireworks laws on the books.
Secondly, Floridians are permitted to purchase and set off fireworks provided they are used “solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.” That’s why when Floridians go to fireworks tents all year long they must sign waivers affirming that they’re only buying a cartload of “Excalibur Platinum Artillery Shells” to scare away crows or something.
Can I set off fireworks in Florida on New Year’s Eve?
Yes. On the three “designated holidays,” people setting off the kind of popular fireworks found in stores and roadside stands, such as Roman candles, bottle rockets, aerial fireworks, fountains and other novelty firecrackers, will be able to do so without having to prove agricultural needs.
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What if my town or HOA has its own fireworks restrictions?
According to Florida law, the three designated holidays do not supersede existing local government ordinances or neighborhood covenants and restrictions already on the books. If it wasn’t OK before, it won’t be OK now.
But the law specifically prohibits cities and HOAs from creating new rules to prevent residents from taking advantage of the fireworks holidays.
How late at night can I set off fireworks in Florida?
The law doesn’t specify a time, so technically a person would have until midnight when the official day ends and a new day begins. However, nearly every community prohibits excessive, unnecessary or unreasonable noise so you’re better off using up the noisiest fireworks earlier in the evening. Contact your city or HOA for the specific noise or nuisance laws where you live.
I have Jan. 2 off work. Can I set off fireworks leftover from the day before?
Congrats on the day off, but no. Unless you have an agricultural or fish hatchery exemption, you’re going to have to save them for the Fourth of July. Your neighbors will probably thank you for sticking firm to the legal days as well.
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Can I be arrested for setting off fireworks in Florida if it’s not an approved holiday?
Unlikely. The statute makes selling fireworks apart from the listed exemptions a first-degree misdemeanor, but there is no stated penalty for the people with the lighters. The statute does specifically say, however, that a sheriff or sheriff’s appointee may seize any fireworks in violation.
However, you still may be charged with violating local ordinances against noise or public disruption, or in relation to any damage caused, at the discrepancy of local law enforcement.
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How can I keep my family safe using backyard fireworks?
Here are guidelines for fireworks safety from the office of Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal:
- Stay away from unapproved sparklers – Per Florida Statute, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is responsible for updating an annual list of approved sparklers. Never use sparklers without close adult supervision.
- Throw away the duds – Relighting a dud can cause it to explode, which can lead to serious injury. If fireworks don’t light, always drench them in water to make sure they are completely extinguished.
- Protect your children – Never let young children use fireworks or sparklers as they can cause third-degree burns if not handled properly. Glow sticks are a fantastic way for young kids to celebrate safely.
- Remember your neighbors and pets – Always keep pets inside and a safe distance from fireworks. Also, be mindful that many in our state, including first responders and veterans, suffer from PTSD and your celebration could impact their symptoms.
- Always have a fire extinguisher on hand – Disposing of fireworks and sparklers the right way can prevent an accident from happening. Using water or a fire extinguisher makes sure everything is cool enough to throw away.