It’s that time of year again when neighborhoods are full of backyard fireworks displays, and while they may look gorgeous, the chances are you’re breaking the law.
“Anything that leaves the ground or explodes is an illegal firework in the state of Florida,” said Maj. Brandon Ball, with the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The law is in place for a reason. Earlier this week, Tampa Fire Rescue demonstrated just how dangerous the consumer fireworks are by firing them off inside watermelon and cantaloupe. The fruit disintegrated with ease.
“Just tragedy after tragedy around the Fourth of July holiday,” Ball said.
Technically in Florida, the only fireworks you’re legally allowed to use are the ones that fall under the sparkler category. But anyone who listens the next few nights can hear not everyone follows that law.
“I mean it’s the Fourth of July, come on,” said Steven Thompson, who works for a TNT Fireworks tent in Brandon.
The fireworks tent seen on every other other block this time of year skirt around the law through a popular loophole.
Buyers sign a waiver basically saying they’re going to use the fireworks for agricultural purposes, like to scare birds off their farm.
Those “birds” don’t stand a chance with this year’s hot seller.
“It shoots it up in the air about 75, 100 feet and it blows up. It makes a really big display in the air,” Thompson said, describing the product that comes with two launchers.
While it’s illegal anywhere in Florida, chances are slim the police are going to give you any trouble.
Representatives at three bay area agencies tell me it’s next to impossible to enforce the law.
Pinellas County is one of the only Florida counties that has a stricter local ordinance, but even there police don’t have the resources to chase down every boom.
“Those types of fireworks are best left for the professions,” said Ball.