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Gallagher Urges Floridians to Ring in New Year Safely


CONTACT: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE— Florida law bans the retail sale of fireworks. Illegal consumer fireworks – those that launch or explode – include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers. The unlawful sale or use of these is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

More than 10,000 Americans – more than half being children – are injured every year by fireworks.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who also serves as State Fire Marshal, today issued a Law Enforcement and Inspections Guide to Fireworks and Sparkler Enforcement to help law enforcement agencies and fire inspectors identify illegal fireworks.

"Many Floridians choose to celebrate with fireworks, but they risk harming themselves and their loved ones," Gallagher said. "I am asking Floridians to please put safety first."

The guide is currently available online, along with a list of state-approved sparklers all consumers can use legally, at The 2003 approved list includes about 1,400 items.

Even with legal sparklers there is still a risk of injury. When lit, some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees, which is more than 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane lighter. Consumers should follow these precautions to celebrate safely:

· Do not use items that launch or explode.

· Use sparklers and other legal novelties on a flat, hard surface. Do not light them on grass.

· Use sparklers in an open area. Keep children and pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited fireworks.

· Light only one item at a time and never re-light one.

· Don't use any unwrapped items or items that may have been tampered with.

· Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on-hand for emergencies and drop used sparklers in a bucket of water.

In recent years retailers have lured consumers into buying illegal and dangerous fireworks by asking them to sign a waiver that they will use the products in accordance with Florida law.

Florida law allows the sale and use of fireworks under limited circumstances:

· For direct shipping out of state by a manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler;

· By a person holding a permit from any board of county commissioners to operate a display;

· To chase away birds from farms or fish hatcheries, as regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

· By railroads or other transportation agencies for signal purposes or illumination or when used in quarrying or for blasting or other industrial use;

· Use of blank cartridges for a show or theater, or for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports;

· By military organizations or organizations composed of the Armed Forces of the United States.

The Law Enforcement and Inspections Guide to Fireworks and Sparkler Enforcement was created by the State Fire Marshal's Office with assistance from the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association, Florida Fire Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association and contributions from Polk County Fire and Rescue.