Snap, Crackle, Pop! At any other time of year, these would be the sounds coming from a bowl of breakfast cereal. But for a short time every July, these sounds echo through the night as we light up the sky with our favorite Independence Day festivity - fireworks.
Lighting off fireworks is an exciting affair, and one that helps us to bond with not just our families but with all of our fellow Americans. But it's important to remember that fireworks - though they are bright, flashy, and fun - are state-regulated explosives, and it's important to adhere to the relevant rules and regulations to avoid not just hefty fines but also the endangerment of others. So before you celebrate this Independence Day, here's a quick guide to Wisconsin fireworks law.
Note: most of the law surrounding fireworks can be found in Wisconsin Statute § 167.10. Also, it is important to note that local ordinances may be more restrictive than these laws, so be sure to contact your town, city, or municipality for further information.
FIREWORKS THAT DO NOT REQUIRE A PERMIT:
State law allows the sale, possession and use, without a permit, of sparklers not exceeding 36 inches in length, stationary cones and fountains, toy snakes, smoke bombs, caps, noisemakers, confetti poppers with less than ¼ grain of explosive mixture, and novelty devices that spin or move on the ground. There is no age restriction on sale, possession or use of these devices and the statute does not classify them as fireworks.
In other words, if you can buy it in a grocery store, you probably don't need a permit.
FIREWORKS THAT ARE ILLEGAL WITHOUT A PERMIT:
Possessing or using any other fireworks, including, for example, firecrackers, roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars, in Wisconsin without a valid permit is illegal.
A commonly used rule of thumb is that a permit is required if the device explodes or leaves the ground.
OBTAINING A VALID PERMIT:
A permit may be issued by a mayor, village president or town chair or any person designated by the mayor, village president or town chairperson. These designated persons are often fireworks vendors, for the convenience of buyers.
A permit is valid only in the city, village or town of the official who issued it. Furthermore, a valid permit must specify the general kind and approximate quantity of fireworks which may be purchased, and must also specify the location and range of dates in which the fireworks are going to be used.
Again, if you have any questions about obtaining a permit, it's best to contact your town, city, or municipality for further information.
A CLOSING NOTE ABOUT SAFETY:
While Independence Day is an exciting time of year, it is, again, important to remember that fireworks are explosives, and can present a great danger when not used carefully. Always be sure to use good judgment and proper safety equipment (such as eye protection), to avoid mixing alcohol and fireworks, and to have ready the contact information for the local fire department in case of emergencies. And on behalf of all of us at Parks Law Offices, have a happy, legal, and safe Independence Day.
Danny Garcia is an associate at Parks Law Offices, whose practice emphasizes criminal, employment, and landlord/tenant law, as well as contract law and litigation. His favorite fireworks include Sparklers, Roman Candles, and Bottle Rockets. He never uses the latter two without a valid permit.