ESCANABA - This Fourth of July Michigan residents have more firework options thanks to a law passed last December. The new law legalizes many consumer fireworks that were previously banned including firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, and sky lanterns.
In the past, Michigan residents who wanted to purchase these fireworks had to cross state lines or visit firework stands located on tribal lands, including stands on land owned by the Hannahville Indian Community.
"You could have them, you just couldn't shoot them off before," said Escanaba Public Safety Lt. Robert LaMarche. LaMarche believes the new law will reduce the desire to cross borders to purchase fireworks.
For the majority of the year, Michigan cities are allowed to limit when and where fireworks are discharged. However, no unit of local government can prohibit or limit the usage of fireworks on the day before a nation holiday, the holiday itself, or the day after.
"We do have a city ordinance here," said LaMarche. "Anywhere outside that parameter we could cite them for a noise ordinance, maintaining a nuisance."
Under the new law, fireworks cannot be used on public, church, or school property without the expressed consent of the organization responsible for the property. "People can't take those fireworks down to the park and shoot them off," said LaMarche.
"Fourth of July, as far as everyone knows we can shoot these; these are legal," said LaMarche. "That problem is going to be compounded, especially down in the park." Firing fireworks on public property is a state civil infraction which could carry a fine of up to $500.
Another major concern for law enforcement officers is alcohol usage. "The biggest thing that we are going to be looking out for is people who are drinking," said LaMarche. "Being intoxicated is one thing you can't do."
Someone found to be operating fireworks under the influence of alcohol or other drugs will be charged with a 30 day misdemeanor. If the incident causes injury it becomes a 90 day misdemeanor, if it causes impairment it becomes a 5 year felony, and if it causes death it is a 15 year felony.
"Typically the Fourth of July is the big one where people are drinking so hopefully they are responsible with the fireworks," said LaMarche.
LaMarche also warns citizens to be smart about where and how they set off fireworks in the city. "The thing is, in the city if you shoot something up it's going to come down on something," he said. "Depending on the weather, things are starting to dry out right now, so there is the potential for fires."
The National Council on Firework Safety warns consumers to use fireworks as intended, have water handy, and never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks, attempt to make your own fireworks, or light more than one firework at a time.