4th of July fireworks in New England: State laws, injuries, deaths

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With a New England summer return in full swing and a record 43.6 million Americans estimated to hit the road this holiday weekend, the skies will come alive again with crackles, glows and bursts of color.

Last year’s pandemic put a halt to the large July 4 fireworks usually organized by municipalities.

Instead, people took pyrotechnics into their own backyards, leading to the inevitable chaos – a 50% increase in deaths and injuries in 2020 compared to 2019.

Consumption fireworks are mostly illegal in all New England states except New Hampshire and Maine, where, probably not coincidentally, some of the most related injuries are thought to be to fireworks occur in the area.

How many people are injured or killed by fireworks?

There’s a reason fire safety officials issue fireworks tips and warnings every summer.

In 2020, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 18 fireworks-related deaths unrelated to professional pyrotechnic companies, up from 12 the previous year. Twelve of the 18 deaths were due to misuse, one was related to an electric match malfunction and five to unknown circumstances. The commission said these figures should be considered a “minimum” for fireworks-related deaths that year.

In 2020, injuries from fireworks sent about 15,600 people to hospital emergency rooms, up from 10,000 in 2019, according to CPSC Annual Fireworks Report.

About 35% of the injured were adults between the ages of 25 and 44. Young adults, ages 20 to 24, had the highest estimated rate of injuries treated in emergency departments. The most commonly injured body parts – in order – were hands and fingers, head, face and ears, eyes, legs and arms.

“These tragic deaths and injuries remind us of just how dangerous fireworks can be,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “Consumers should enjoy professional fireworks from a distance and be extra vigilant when using consumer-type fireworks.”

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Fireworks are legal in New Hampshire and Maine

Allegiant Fire Protection, a fire safety company, analyzed nationwide Google search trends to determine where searches related to fireworks and burns, such as “burnt finger on sparkler” and “fire burnt hand fireworks”, increased the most during the summer months.

Maine and New Hampshire ranked ninth and tenth respectively in the country for most Google searches related to fireworks injuries – and they are also the only two New England states where fireworks fireworks are legal on private property.

New Hampshire spends the most money on fireworks of any New England state — importing more than $980,000 between January 2020 and March 2021, according to Allegiant Fire.

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In New Hampshire, people 21 and older can purchase fireworks and use them on private property, but not in all cities. State law allows cities to implement their own restrictions.

In Maine, fireworks can be set off on private property or with a landlord’s permission. However, individual communities are allowed to ban fireworks. The city of Portland bans them, for example.

According to a March report from the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office, 14 people were taken to medical facilities for treatment of fireworks-related injuries in 2020, and the victims ranged in age from 5 to 41.

The Maine Forest Service also reported 20 fireworks-caused fires destroying more than five acres in 2020.

Are fireworks allowed in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts completely bans consumer fireworks. The use of fireworks by anyone who is not a licensed professional is against the law. Even fireworks purchased out of state cannot be imported into Massachusetts. Firecrackers are also prohibited.

Although you cannot be arrested for the simple possession of fireworks, you can be fined and the police are required to confiscate them. You can, however, be arrested for selling fireworks in Massachusetts.

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Despite the state ban, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said calls for fireworks to the police were on the rise 5.543% in June 2020 compared to June 2019.

Between 2011 and 2020, 941 major fires and explosions involving illegal fireworks were reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System. Twelve civilians and 42 firefighters were injured, and 32 of those people were treated in Massachusetts emergency rooms for severe burns.

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Are fireworks allowed in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, according to the State Fire Marshal‘s Office, only floor and hand-held candles are legal for use by the general public.

Are fireworks allowed in Vermont?

In Vermont, all fireworks—except sparklers and other novelty smoke-producing devices—are illegal, except for licensed and supervised public displays.

Are fireworks allowed in Connecticut?

Fireworks are not permitted in Connecticut for use by non-professional and unlicensed users. However, sparklers and fountains can be sold and used.

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