Fireworks last year in Clayton. STAFF PHOTO/LISA POWELL

State of Ohio considers major changes to fireworks laws

Current law unpopular, but fire chief says new bill no better.

Firefighters and pyrotechnics manufacturers agree state laws allowing Ohio residents to purchase but not launch fireworks in-state are ineffective, but disagree on how to fix them.

Fireworks proponents say the answer is to relax the existing law. Though it hasn’t been legal in decades, a pair of bills before the General Assembly would allow Ohioans to purchase so-called 1.4G explosives, commonly known as consumer-level fireworks, and shoot them off across the state.

Local firefighters tell the Dayton Daily News they’re concerned this will cause new problems in an already difficult situation.

The bill — introduced in the Senate by state Sen. David Burke, R-Marysville, and in the House by state Rep. Don Manning, R-New Middletown, and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren — would allow the public to legally use popular pyrotechnics, including fountains, cones and firecrackers.

RELATED: Man injured when fireworks exploded in car in Dayton

“I am disappointed each and every year when I cannot legally and honestly discharge fireworks as a means of celebrating with my family, friends and neighbors,” Burke said in written testimony. “Therefore, I have introduced this legislation that would allow Ohioans to purchase and use 1.4G fireworks here in the state.”

Burke proposes:

• No longer requiring Ohio-purchased fireworks to be taken outside Ohio within 48 hours of purchase.

• Allowing consumers to discharge, ignite or explode those fireworks on their own property or on another’s with permission.

• Establishing a fire code rule recommendation committee to review the law and make recommendations to the state fire marshal.

• Requiring the state fire marshal to adopt rules regulating the time, manner and location of fireworks use and permit local governments to add restrictions as well.

The new law, if enacted, would also require fireworks sellers to have safety glasses available for free or a nominal charge and distribute a pamphlet from the state fire marshal explaining the safe use of the explosives.

Additionally, a new fee on fireworks would go toward firefighter training across Ohio. State estimates don’t say how much revenue the fee would generate, but it “could be very substantial based on national sales data.”

Youngstown-based Phantom Fireworks and Lancaster-based Hamburg Fireworks Display support the change.

“Our company, Phantom Fireworks, was founded in Ohio 43 years ago and we’ve been selling them in Ohio one way or another for all that time,” said Dan Peart, the company’s director of government affairs. “Quite simply, the law has not been changed much in that time and every single state that borders ours allows some level of consumer-level fireworks.”

“We should quit making criminals out of Ohioans for celebrating our nation’s independence,” Peart said.

Centerville police spokesman John Davis said his agency rarely cites residents for fireworks violations.

“It’s not something we do very often at all,” Davis said. “I can’t recall anything off the top of my head.”

Huber Heights Fire Chief Mark Ashworth said he’s opposed to selling explosives to the general public. The city already presents a large pyrotechnics display each year, he said, though that doesn’t deter individuals from buying their own.

“I understand, too, that the law on the books is ineffective,” Ashworth said. “It’s an unobtainable law for me to enforce and doesn’t give me any teeth to enforce. We have errant fireworks going off all weekend.”

“There are so many collateral effects to this that it’s hard to define,” Ashworth said.

MORE: Keep your dogs inside on Fourth of July

In recent years, fireworks — even professional displays — have come under scrutiny for their effects on different groups, including veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pet owners whose animals become frightened by the explosives.

“If you want a common sense law, ask the firefighters to be involved,” Ashworth said. “Let’s make something that makes sense that protects not only the user, but protects the environment or neighbors as well.”

The proposed committee to develop recommendations for the state fire marshal would include four Ohio fire chiefs; one police chief; five members of the Ohio State Pyrotechnics Association, the trade group for fireworks manufacturers, exhibitors and wholesalers; and one member each from Prevent Blindness Ohio, the Ohio Optometric Association, the Ohio Pyrotechnic Arts Guild and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fireworks triggered a “catastrophic” car explosion last Fourth of July in Dayton, police and fire officials said at the time. The explosion injured a man who was pulled from the burning car and caused minor injuries to several people outside. A witness told the Dayton Daily News the explosion sounded like a bomb and blew off the vehicle’s skylight, hitting the witness’ vehicle and setting off his car’s airbags.

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