A Brandon soldier's fireworks tradition may shut down after neighbors complain of burning embers

BRANDON, Fla. - There's really nothing that Spc. Ryan Segers is more proud of than his 15 years in the military.  It's no surprise then, that his favorite holiday is the Fourth of July.

"That's what the military is for, protecting and defending our freedom," Segers said.

Segers' latest battle, however, isn't really about freedom, since what he's fighting for is technically illegal.

For almost a decade, since 2004, Segers has bought $700 worth of fireworks that last about 45 minutes,  inviting 50 neighbors and friends to watch, even though he doesn't have a permit.

"It is against the law, but it's a law that really isn't enforced that much," Segers said.

Plus, Segers says, no one's ever complained, until this year.

New neighbors across the street witnessed the display for the first time last year.  They plan to call Hillsborough County deputies if it happens again.

Christy Ronchetti sent ABC Action News the following statement:

"The 4th of July is my favorite part of summer and I love watching fireworks.  However, professional firework displays are not appropriate to be exploded just twenty to thirty yards from a residence.  Burning embers landing on our roof, in our trees, and on our cars last year gave us great concern for our property.  The loud explosions literally shook our home and caused great distress to our pets.  Especially our 14-year old German Shepherd that suffers from hip dysplasia.  We thought for sure that by expressing these concerns to our neighbors they would avoid lighting commercial quality fireworks this year.  I am very disappointed to have now learned from news reporters that my neighbors are not only moving forward with the commercial fireworks display but they have also decided to make a public spectacle of our requests that I believe to be completely reasonable. "

Other neighbors, like Rosemarie Suarez, look forward to it.

"It's right next door. I don't have to get in my car and go anyplace.  He does a beautiful job," she said.

In Florida, any fireworks that leave the ground are not legal unless administered by a licensed professional. Segers' display does not meet Fire Marshall standards for distance required between the fireworks and people or structures.

Segers has paid for a $1 million insurance policy to cover any damages.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office does not have enough staff to roam neighborhoods looking for illegal fireworks, but they will respond if called.

According to Segers, he's never had any problems.  He offered to board the Ronchetti's pets and clean up the debris.  He doesn't want to risk his job if arrested for fireworks, but he says he's already risked his life for what they mean to him.

"For all the people who have given their lives before me," he said. "That's the reason why."

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