Listen to this article

Before we all start our Fourth of July celebrations, let’s review what is and isn’t lawful use of fireworks in Illinois.

Illinois law declares it unlawful for any person, firm, co-partnership or corporation to knowingly use or explode any consumer fireworks display, flame effects or consumer fireworks without a permit from the state fire marshal.

What the heck are consumer fireworks displays, flame effects and consumer fireworks?

A consumer fireworks display is the detonation of consumer fireworks to produce visual and audible effects. Flame effects are basically the display and detonation of consumer fireworks for the public, invitees or licensees.

The list goes on

Consumer fireworks are fireworks that must comply with regulations from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, consumer fireworks do not include “snake or glow worm pellets,” “smoke devices,” “trick noise makers” (known as “party poppers”), “booby traps,” “snappers,” “trick matches,” “cigarette loads,” “auto burglar alarms,” “sparklers,” “toy pistols,” “toy canes,” “toy guns” or other devices in which “paper or plastic caps containing 25 hundredths grains or less of explosive compound are used” unless they are constructed so a hand cannot come in contact with the cap in place for the explosion.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal maintains a list of approved consumer fireworks, updated annually.

Cities, villages and counties can adopt reasonable rules and regulations for granting permits for consumer fireworks displays. Municipalities may prohibit use of sparklers on public city property. Indeed, cities may otherwise entirely prohibit use of fireworks within their boundaries.

Consumer fireworks must be handled by a person who has received training from a consumer fireworks training class approved by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. To fire any consumer fireworks, an individual thereafter needs to apply for consumer display permits once they have received the training.

A permit will only be issued after the display site is inspected so that the site is in full compliance with the state fire marshal’s rules. Such permits must be submitted 15 days in advance of the firing unless otherwise permitted by the local jurisdiction’s fire chief.

Rules of the road

For pyrotechnic display operators who use flame effects (you know, like a city’s big Fourth of July fireworks that we all go to), such operators must also be licensed by the state. Illinois further requires permits for such particular use. Display operators must carry appropriate liability insurance and comply with additional requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Oh, and by the way, no fireworks shall be ignited at any point in the state within 600 feet of a hospital, asylum or infirmary — you know, the places where illegal firework shooters might end up after their shoot.

Violation of any of these laws can result in getting modest fines, and if one is notified of a violation and still doesn’t follow the rules, one can get hit with jail time and a really, really hefty fine. Local cities can impose their own fines for violating their ordinances.

With all the city fireworks canceled because of COVID-19, way more private party fireworking is likely to occur than usual.

Those hospital beds not occupied by COVID-19 patients are ready to receive recently fingerless morons.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. Send questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820.