Thanks to the Kentucky General Assembly, fireworks fans won’t have to leave the commonwealth to buy their favorite items.
For years, state law only allowed a few items, like sparklers and other ground-based fireworks. A new law which took effect in May now allows long-banned things like firecrackers and items that shoot projectiles into the air, including bottle rockets, Roman candles and aerials.
For fire officials and code enforcement officers, it opens limited seasons twice a year when new levels of fireworks are allowed. For the state, it opens a new revenue stream, to the tune of $2.5 million, Winchester Fire-EMS Maj. Greg Beam said.
Local officials only recently received the new guidelines and law from the state, Beam said, and have been working with local vendors to make sure they are compliant.
“I went through (the vendors Monday) and some are scrambling to get their paperwork,” Maj. Rob Carmichael said.
“We’re working with them because it’s new to them too,” Beam said.
Locally, stand-alone fireworks vendors must purchase a state license, a local business license and a tent permit. The law also requires them to have fire extinguishers on hand, have three exits from the tent and to provide an inventory to local fire officials, Carmichael said.
Many of the newly-legal items have been brought into Kentucky for years.
“Most of these folks have been going to Tennessee and bringing it back,” Carmichael said. “It’s hard to enforce residential stuff.”
Anything used in a commercial show requires a state permit and a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he said.
In recent years, there have been very few fireworks-related injuries, Beam said, but it will be years before the effect of the new law is known.
There has not been a significant increase in vendors, Carmichael said. So far, there are five stand-alone fireworks tents in town, which is similar to previous years. Other year-round businesses are selling fireworks too, as are groups in the county, he said.
The Winchester Professional Firefighters jumped into the fireworks business this year with a tent in the Kroger parking lot. WPF President Bryan Howard said business has been good so far, despite the late notice of the new laws. The group has already sold out of a couple of items, he said.
“A lot of people are coming in and have said we’ve already bought some in Tennessee,” Howard said. “I’m sure if we got the word out sooner … (sales) would be better.
The firefighters working in the tent have been working in some safety tips as well, he said.
“If kids come in with their parents, we’ll tell them to be careful and to have a parent around,” Howard said. “We try to express a lot of safety to the parents as we sell them.”
Many of the newly legal fireworks can only be set off by adults, he said.
“They’re more accessible now,” Howard said. “I hope the parents are watching the kids with (the fireworks) and making sure they’re doing it right.”
The proceeds from the group’s fireworks tent will go toward buying a grill for use in their other fund-raising events at local festivals, he said.
Contact Fred Petke at firstname.lastname@example.org.