Fireworks tips from the Fire Marshal

As you may or may not be aware – PA has legalized aerial fireworks and upgraded the legal amount of explosive materials.

House Bill 542 was signed into law on October 30, 2017. Under the new law, the Fireworks Act of 1939 was repealed and replaced in its entirety. However, the questions and answers below highlight the most noteworthy changes.

Q: Which fireworks are Pennsylvania residents now allowed to purchase and use?

Consumers can now purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks that include firecrackers, Roman Candles, bottle rockets, and similar fireworks that contain a maximum of 50 milligrams of explosive material. The expansion includes those fireworks that were previously only available to out-of-state residents.

“Display fireworks,” which are classified as including salutes that contain more than two grains or 130 milligrams of explosive materials, and professional-grade aerial shells containing more than 60 grams of pyrotechnic compositions, are still only to be used by professionals with a permit from the municipality where the display will take place.

Q: Who can purchase fireworks?

Anyone 18 years of age or older can purchase them.

Q: What are the restrictions on where they can be used?

  • They cannot be ignited or discharged on a public or private property without express permission of the property owner
  • They cannot be discharged from or within a motor vehicle or building
  • They cannot be discharged toward a motor vehicle or building
  • They cannot be discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure
  • They cannot be discharged while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another drug.

Q: Where can the fireworks be purchased?

They can be purchased at any licensed facility, including temporary ones. The licenses are issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Examples of temporary facilities include tents or other structures found in parking lots. These temporary structures can sell fireworks between the dates of June 15-July 8 and December 21-January 2 each year. 

Fireworks can be tricky for PTSD

The 4th of July can mean fun, food, friends and fireworks for people, but for our pets, and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) it can be very scary and difficult.

It is suggested that if you or you know of someone suffering from PTSD – place a sign in your front yard with the wording:

“Please be courteous with fireworks.”

Sudden and loud noises can trigger episodes of PTSD, bringing veterans back to traumatic experiences they have lived through during their service. The signs are posted on the lawns of veterans’ homes to alert people to be more considerate when setting off fireworks in the area.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, up to 20% of military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan experience PTSD each year.

Fireworks and other loud celebrations can scare pets, too

July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, which fill up quickly with animals that panic and flee the bright lights and loud noises of holiday celebrations. Make the 4th a safer holiday by following these steps for a stress free day for both you and your fur-kids.

Prepare for the worst-case scenario. July 4th is a great annual reminder to be prepared in case your pet escapes or gets lost. If your pet is not wearing a collar with an ID tag, now is the best time to get one. You’ll also want to double check that your pet’s microchip registry is connected to the correct name and your current phone number and address. If your pet is chipped but not registered, you can register for free here. On that page, created especially for pet owners, you can find resources on what steps to take in case your pet is lost, check local shelters and create a poster for your lost pet.

Avoid the crowds. Avoid bringing your pooch to super crowded events, parades, and other gatherings with a lot of commotion or people. A combination of heat, loud noises, packed spaces and scorching blacktop can not only be stressful, but harmful to your pet’s health. Better to leave them at home in a cool spot with lots of water. It’s especially wise to avoid bringing your pets to firework events, as they could panic and try to run.

Work them out. Be sure to give your pets lots of exercise during the day, so they’ll be a little worn out before the scary noises start at night. A nice long run or play session during the daytime will help with your pet’s overall stress and anxiety levels. Some pets may sleep right through the night time celebrations!

Head indoors before the fun begins. Don’t wait for the fireworks to be in full swing before taking care of your pet. It’s best to bring him or her indoors or put them in a cozy spot well ahead of the first boom of fireworks. Which brings us to…

Create a safe space. Pre-pyrotechnics, create a safe, escape-proof space in your home. Lower the blinds, close the windows, provide a bed or crate where they feel comfortable, offer a special chew or toy to distract them and turn on the TV or radio to help mask the noises outside.

Wrap them up. Confining movement in dogs and cats actually has a calming effect on them, which is why you might want to consider an anti-anxiety wrap or coat.  In a pinch, you can even create one from a scarf.

Give them a chill pill. If you’re really worried about a pet who stresses easily, talk to your vet in advance about anti-anxiety chews, drops or other remedies that can help your pet relax. There are plenty of prescription and homeopathic solutions out there that can help your pet get the extra dose of relaxation that he or she needs.

Independence Day is fun for most, but it could be the worst day imaginable for some of our brave veterans and our pets. Some pets literally think the world is ending, and our vets may be reliving some “not so great times."

Do them all a favor – show some respect and make sure they’re well protected and safe so they can enjoy the celebrations as well.

Please have a Safe and Happy 4th !!!

— Daniel E. Stack, Town of McCandless Fire Marshal