Fireworks purchased in South Carolina, Alabama and Florida might not be legal in Georgia, according to Pyrouniverse.com.
Georgia is among only five Southern states governed by what’s called “Safe and Sane” (non-aerial fireworks) laws, the website states.
Hinesville Fire Marshal Earnest McDuffie agreed.
“Pretty much what they’re selling in the Walmart parking lot is what’s legal,” McDuffie said. “What’s legally sold in Georgia is what’s legal in Georgia. Firecrackers and rockets that make a lot of noise or go over a certain height are not legal here.”
McDuffie said it’s likely that fireworks purchased in a state without restrictions on fireworks are not legal to sell or use in Georgia. He said if a dealer is selling illegal fireworks, or if someone is firing off illegal fireworks within Hinesville or Liberty County, the police department or sheriff’s office should be notified. Local fireworks dealers know the law, McDuffie said.
“The maximum fine for selling illegal fireworks is $1,000 or one year in jail,” said Cheryl Midgorden, wife of Assistant Pastor David Midgorden, Life United Pentecostal Church on 1301 Pipkin Road, which sells fireworks from a big tent in Walmart’s parking lot. “This is our ninth year selling fireworks in the parking lot here. Pastor (Tommy) Crutchfield makes sure we operate under the ‘Safe and Sane’ law.”
Midgorden said her church uses the annual firework sales as a fundraiser to stock their food bank and sponsor youth events and activities like summer camp. She said there are several differences in fireworks sold outside Georgia. Not only is what’s sold limited to low aerial bursts, but noise levels also are limited, she said.
She said fireworks in Georgia include a label that notes the color intensity, bursting height and noise level based on a scale of 1-4, with four being the strongest. She said even the highest level for height doesn’t go rooftop high, and the highest noise level doesn’t reach the level of a normal firecracker, much less the old M-80s or cherry bombs, which now are banned in all states.
“They were trying to change Georgia’s ‘Safe and Sane’ law this year, but it didn’t pass,” she said. “So we’ll continue to sell what are mostly sparklers.”
She said about two years ago, their big white tent was blown down by a bad thunderstorm, and their fireworks were scattered across Walmart’s parking lot. They salvaged what they could, set up the tent and continued to sell fireworks. This year, she said they’ll keep their tent up through July 4 and will close only if they run out.
Capt. Kristian Johanson, HFD training and public-relations officer, said Hinesville and Liberty County has been fortunate to have had few fires caused by fireworks. He said any rocket that’s launched from the ground is a commercial rocket and requires a license. This includes Roman candles, he said. Large rockets that are sold in South Carolina and Florida that reach a certain height, explode then fall back under a parachute are illegal, he said.
Johanson added that in states that don’t have the “Safe and Sane” laws, legislation has been passed to mitigate safety concerns. Even fireworks brought in from outside the state are not as loud as they used to be, he said.
“There have been some changes nationwide,” Johanson said. “They’re decreasing the amount of pyrotechnic in the fireworks in order to reduce the noise level and just be safer.”