Fireworks are illegal in Illinois -- but there are loopholes

News-DemocratJuly 1, 2014 

If you were planning to have an explosive fireworks production in your backyard, you might need to think again.

"They're illegal," said Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour. "In the state of Illinois, they're illegal."

He clarified that the only fireworks allowed to be set off are novelty fireworks, such as sparklers, snap 'n pops and snakes.

Popular types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles, are not allowed in Illinois under the new regulations, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

But there are loopholes.

"Municipalities can pass ordinances that ban the sale and usage of fireworks including consumer fireworks," according to Milly Santiago, spokeswoman for the Office of the State Fire Marshal. "A local municipality or county (also) must pass an ordinance allowing the usage and/or the sale of fireworks."

Local cities can adopt their own ordinances to allow fountains, repeaters, parachutes and other consumer fireworks, but sometimes those come with more restrictions.

Last year, for example, Belleville officials considered passing a city ordinance to allow the sale of larger fireworks. However, to sell those items, Pour said every customer would be required to take state-mandated safety training.

"The City Council agreed that we didn't have the staffing to give the class," he said. "We decided to follow the state law."

Shiloh has an ordinance to allow the sale of consumer fireworks at a stand on Green Mount Road.

Shiloh Police Chief Jim Stover said the fireworks stand in Shiloh has a special-use permit approved by the village board to operate and is licensed through the fire marshal's office.

"As far as everything we have heard, they are not selling anything illegal," Stover said.

A visit to the stand on Green Mount Road in Shiloh on Tuesday found the usual novelty items being sold such as sparklers, colored smoke balls and black snakes. The stand also was selling fountains that shoot off showers of sparks that can go up to 30 to 50 feet and high aerials, which are shooting balls that go 200-plus feet off the ground. A flyer titled "Consumer Fireworks Safety and Knowledge" was available at the fireworks stand.

A sign displayed by the road states: "Huge fireworks sold here." Another sign states: "No bottle rockets, firecrackers or Roman candles."

Frierdich Fireworks operates the stand in Shiloh, as well as two other stands in the area: one in Lebanon and another in Breese.

Lebanon Police Sgt. David Tutterow said the department has not received any complaints regarding the stand in Lebanon. He said the stand has operated on South Madison for years.

"To my knowledge, we have never found anything illegal there," Tutterow said.

He said the department will check the stand if a resident has a concern. However, Tutterow said, "We don't make it a point to go in there and make daily checks. They are people doing their business. In the times I've been there over the years, I have never seen anything out of the ordinary."

Some residents may buy fireworks from Missouri and set them off in their yard, but chances are they're breaking the law. "If you see someone breaking the law, call the police," Pour advised.

Like Belleville, most other metro-east cities follow state law and don't permit residents to shoot off larger fireworks, a survey of other local municipalities found.

Swansea Fire Chief John McGuire said fireworks are not permitted in the village.

In Madison County, several cities have followed the same procedures. Highland no longer allows independent fireworks retailers to set up shop in the city, and a city ordinance prohibits setting off fireworks bought elsewhere unless licensed by the city for public display.

Edwardsville has similar restrictions, forbidding fireworks retailers and disallowing setting off fireworks without an operator's license and city permit. That includes firecrackers, Roman candles and any other firework containing an explosive substance.

Edwardsville Fire Chief Rick Welle also reiterated that just because a device is legal doesn't make it safe.

"The next time someone decides to let their toddler hold a sparkler because 'it's harmless,' you might want to remind them that depending on the metal and oxidizer used on the sparkler, the temperature at the tip will be between 1,000 and 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit," Welle said.

The National Fire Safety Council recommends the following safety tips for sparklers:

* Only use outdoors, away from buildings and vehicles.

* Only light one at a time.

* Keep away from clothing and anything flammable.

* When the sparklers are done, put them into a bucket of water.

"It's really much easier to have people come to our public displays," Pour said.

BND reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this article.

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