As Independence Day quickly approaches, families are flocking to firework shops in the area to stock up for their backyard firework extravaganzas. However, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Major and Sheriff-elect Lafayette Woods Jr. is issuing a word of caution about the legality of shooting fireworks in certain areas of the county.
First, it’s illegal to sell fireworks in the City of Pine Bluff. They can be sold in the county, though. It’s also illegal to shoot fireworks in Pine Bluff and within 600 feet of a church or school or within 200 feet of a fireworks store.
“Law enforcement receives so many calls and complaints about people using fireworks in the city that it puts law enforcement in trouble; keeps them from being able to handle more serious calls,” Woods said.
“We get a lot of calls about firework wars, where kids are throwing and aiming fireworks at each other and will have a deputy patrolling the city on watch.”
For those discharging fireworks outside city limits, Woods recommends parents supervise children over the age of 12 (who are the only children allowed to be sold fireworks outside the county) and having a water hose or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.
People are usually injured because they don’t read the instructions on fireworks, Woods said.
Legend has it in a letter addressed to his wife, former President John Adams called for the Fourth of July to be treated as a “great anniversary festival” in which people were encouraged to celebrate using guns, games, bells, bonfires, and illumination of the sky from one side of the continent to the opposite end – a tradition that has stood the test of time.
Throughout the years, millions of people have gathered in backyards, store parking lots, parks, lakes, and the likes to witness numerous firework shows that honor the country’s independence.
As of late, cities have begun cracking down on the purchase and usage of certain consumer fireworks with various laws and precautions that are aimed at protecting citizens and the environment they live in.
States like Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia have all limited the selling of fireworks to include only non-explosive, non-aerial fireworks like sparklers, fountains, and novelty fireworks.
Chicago has reduced its range of consumer fireworks sold to just wire or wood stick-only sparklers, with other states like Delaware and Massachusetts banning the sale of consumer fireworks altogether.
In some cases, states like Arkansas will allow vendors to sell fireworks during two selling seasons. The first season typically falls between June 20 and July 10, and the second season falling between December 20 and January 2.
One firework stand, Dave’s Fireworks, perched at 9824 US-270 in White Hall, has opened its door during these two selling seasons for the past 30 years.
Started by Dave Hackett of Dermott, Dave’s Fireworks has lasted through four generations of Hacketts who currently operate the shop and keep it afloat.
When reflecting on the number of fireworks the family sells each selling season, Ryan Hackett, Hackett’s grandson, said, “Honestly, I can’t put a number on it.”
The shop offers a variety of fireworks ranging from smaller scale, non-explosives like sparklers and Pop-Its, to larger explosives like 200-gram and 500-gram aerial cakes that shoot off anywhere from nine to 196 shots.
“If they’re looking for their own backyard fire show, I recommend artillery shells and aerial cakes,” Hackett advised.
Customers who frequent Dave’s typically reach for any one of their artillery shells, aerial cakes, or lock and load fireworks which are their best sellers, according to Hackett. Along with some of their long-standing, less flashy items like bottle rockets, sparklers, and snap rocks.
At the moment, the store is holding a buy-one-get-one-free deal on all fireworks sold in the store, giving customers the opportunity to purchase ready-made kits or creating their own bundles by choosing fireworks randomly.
“The only allowable max you can shoot at home is a 500 gram,” added Hackett, referring to certain laws enforced in the state of Arkansas concerning consumer fireworks. “Anything higher than that is considered professional.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 18,500 fires are started by fireworks and over $43 million dollars in direct property damages. In 2015, some 11,900 people were treated in U.S. hospitals for firework-related injuries.
Statistics like these are the reason that Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers recommends that Pine Bluff residents do not shoot fireworks.
While individuals outside of Pine Bluff may be under separate conditions, those who violate Ordinance No. 5807, which states that it is unlawful to manufacture, wholesale, or discharge fireworks in the city, are subject to fines in the amount of $50 per offense or being apprehended, Childers said.