Fairfax Co. cracks down on illegal fireworks as July 4 holiday nears

FAIRFAX, Va. — Fairfax County will increase its firework enforcement efforts this Independence Day holiday to reduce the number of illegal fireworks in the county.

“When things go boom … people can get injured, hurt and unfortunately even lose a life or a limb,” said Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers. “We want you to have a safe and enjoyable holiday on the Fourth of July.”

Friday, the county’s fire officials demonstrated the danger that consumer fireworks sold in other states pose.

Watermelons blew apart with a burst of sparkles. A mannequin’s hand was blown off by a firework. And two mannequin children had their clothes melt and burn when handheld sparklers got a little too close.

Fire officials will be out from June 30 through July 4 making sure county residents understand state and local fireworks laws, Fairfax County Fire Battalion Chief Kerwin McNamara said.

“This year, because of the number of complaints we’ve received from the public, we are going to step up our enforcement of fireworks,” McNamara said.

A sparkler melts the T-shirt on a mannequin in a safety demonstration put on by Fairfax County fire officials on Friday. The county plans to crack down on illegal fireworks this July 4 holiday because of increased complaints. (WTOP/ Dennis Foley)

In Virginia, it is illegal to possess fireworks that emit a flame or sparks higher than 12 feet, explode or is a projectile.

“A good rule of thumb: if it goes up or blows up, it is not legal to use or purchase or have in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Fire Battalion Chief John Walser said.

Possession of such fireworks is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, with fines as high as $2,500 and punishable by up to one year in jail.

Walser says buyer beware for those who stop by megastores in Pennsylvania or a stand along the highway in South Carolina. “Anything that you buy outside of this state, you do not have the assurance that it’s legal in Fairfax County, so you may have potentially wasted your money,” Walser said.

A permit is required to sell fireworks in the county and those sellers are inspected by the fire marshal’s office to ensure their products are legal and safe in the county.

“Any firework that is sold in Fairfax County is permissible,” Walser stated.

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Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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