County Responds to 300+ Illegal Fireworks Complaints July 4th

| July 20, 2017 | 0 Comments | News

The Prince William County Fire Marshal’s Office and the County Police Department seized an enormous amount of illegal fireworks over the Independence Holiday period. Photo Courtesy PWC Fire Marshall’s Office

The Prince William County Fire Marshall’s Office and Police Department responded to over 300 complaints for illegal fireworks during the Independence Day holiday.

According to Assistant Chief Matt Smolsky, the County’s Fire Marshal, many of these calls resulted in seizures of illegal fireworks and charges being placed against residents.

“The continued use of illegal fireworks throughout the county is disturbing; no matter where you traveled through the county, over the holiday period, it was very easy to observe the use of illegal fireworks,” he said. “Not only are these types of fireworks illegal, but very dangerous.”

The penalty of possession or use of illegal fireworks is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could result in one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

“It’s always our intent when we go out and deal with illegal fireworks to get the fireworks off the streets so they can do no harm, but when citizens don’t cooperate or their actions result in property damage or injuries, we have to resort to a tougher stance by issuing a summons for them to appear in court for the possession of illegal fireworks,” Smolsky said.

The Commonwealth considers a firework is illegal if it explodes, emits flames, travels laterally or over 12 feet in the air, performs as a projectile or fires projectiles other than sparks.

Permissable fireworks include sparklers, fountains, “pharaoh’s serpents,” caps for pistols and pinwheels (whirligigs), “spinning jennies” or other similar fireworks.  These devices must have a hard-coated or slow-burning fuse at least 1 1/2 inches long with a burning rate of not less than four seconds. The complete list of legal devices is located here.

Furthermore, these devices can only be discharged on private property with the approval of the owner of the property.
Some firework stands are permitted by local jurisdictions to sell fireworks, over the holiday the FMO performed spot checks on the fireworks stands throughout the county.

“To all the fireworks vendors who had stands, thank you for helping us keep our citizens safe by taking the proper steps to become permitted through the FMO to sell legal fireworks in the county,” he said.

Smolsky said the department was overwhelmed with complaints during the periods of peak use during the holiday.

A question I’m often asked is, “Why don’t you provide more enforcement?” I’ll be very honest in that respect, we’re overwhelmed during the peak periods of use — the days leading up to and including July 4.

“We can’t be everywhere at one time, but we do our best to get out and answer reported citizen complaints,” he said. “I would encourage citizens to report any of those types of situations where illegal fireworks are being discharged in their communities; we’ll respond as soon as possible to evaluate the situation.”

Citing concerns for the danger to residents who use these devices, Smolsky warned that county agencies will continue to enforce laws against illegal fireworks.

“The FMO and the Police Department will continue to be out in the community looking for illegal fireworks; and next year, we’ll be out there again in an effort to keep our citizens and community safe,” he said.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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