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Keep the law, safety in mind when shooting off fireworks

July 02, 2014 - As Oxford residents gather this week to celebrate the Fourth of July by watching the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, remember there are laws as to when and where those fireworks can be used.

Both the township and village previously adopted the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act as part of their local ordinances.

As such, residents are only legally allowed to discharge fireworks for the upcoming national holiday from Thursday, July 3 through Saturday, July 5.

The only exception on those days is between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. when the use of fireworks is specifically prohibited.

In 2012, the state legalized the use of consumer-grade fireworks, which includes things such as Roman candles, bottle rockets and certain aerial shells not exceeding 1.75 inches in diameter. It basically encompasses many fireworks that leave the ground and explode in the air.

State law, and the local ordinances that mirror it, allow these fireworks to be used on the day before, the day of and the day after the 10 national holidays.

During the other 335 days, both the village and township prohibit the use of consumer-grade fireworks without a permit.

In addition to regulating when fireworks can be used, both state law and local ordinances cover where they can be discharged.

Using fireworks on public property, school property and church property is prohibited as is shooting them off on someone else's private property unless express permission is obtained from the owner.

"Anytime you light fireworks off, legally, they have to be on your property," said Oxford Fire Chief Pete Scholz. "You can't just go to the park and light them off. You can't go out into the middle of the street and light them off. It has to be on your personal property. Legally, they can't come down on anybody else's property."

If fireworks cause damage to someone else's property, the person who discharged them can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Scholz advised residents to "pay attention to the wind" and the trajectory when shooting off fireworks in order "to make sure it's not going to blow over onto a neighbor's house."

It's not just property damage that's covered under state law.

Injury and death are addressed as well.

If fireworks cause the "serious impairment of a body function" of another individual, then the person responsible can be found guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Someone responsible for a fireworks-related death can be found guilty of a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Scholz wished to remind folks that small children should never be allowed to light fireworks or even handle something as seemingly harmless as sparklers, which, according to the chief, pose a significant threat to skin, eyes and hair.

"It's very easy to reach up and grab that hot wire. They can easily burn themselves," Scholz said. "Yeah, it's neat for them (to hold), but at the same time, they are extremely dangerous."

When cleaning up and storing fireworks debris, Scholz warned residents, "Do not put them in a plastic garbage can or a cardboard box" and "never put them inside the house or on the deck."

He said a couple of neighboring departments have already dealt with fires that started that way this year.

Scholz said the safest way to dispose of fireworks debris is to place them in a container – preferably something made of metal like a coffee can – that's filled with water, "so you know they're definitely cold and out."

As for storing fireworks before they're used, Scholz advised residents to keep them in either a shed or detached garage.

"I wouldn't want to store them in the house if you don't have to," he said.

Don't store them in motor vehicles, either, and be extremely careful when transporting them.

"It's not something you want to carry around all the time in the car," Scholz said. "It's an extra hazard inside the vehicle."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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