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Have you been hearing nightly bursts of fireworks for the last few weeks now? You're not the only one. People across the country have been reporting a sudden uptick in the use of fireworks both in cities where the pyrotechnics are illegal and in places where they're permitted, though officials have yet to determine an exact reason why.
One possible explanation is that localities across the country have gradually relaxed fireworks laws over the last few years. Combine that with upcoming July 4th celebrations and people getting antsy at home, and that may be the cause of the nightly impromptu fireworks shows.
Fireworks regulations for private use have been relaxed in many states and localities over the last two decades. While exact regulations may vary on which varieties consumers can purchase and use, the trend in less-restrictive firework laws has been accompanied by a slight increase in firework-related injuries over the same period.
In 2015, New York permitted the use of sparklers and other small handheld pyrotechnics in some counties, relaxing its statewide universal ban on consumer fireworks.
Over the next few years, the Tri-State area also revised its fireworks regulations to permit more private purchase and use, though individual counties and cities still may have bans in place.
Due to fire concerns, many cities and counties in California retain complete bans on firework use and purchase by private citizens, but state laws permit "safe and sane" firework use in certain localities. Fireworks considered "safe and sane" generally do not fly or explode.
Only one state, Massachusetts, retains a blanket statewide ban on fireworks save for professional use. If you are unsure whether fireworks are legal where you live and what types you can use, you can check the laws of your county and city for further guidance.
Penalties for illegal firework use can be steep, including hefty fines and even jail time in some states. Besides legal punishments, injuries incurred from handling fireworks can be severe as well.
Be sure to follow the instructions on whichever fireworks you choose to set off, comply with local regulations for the safety of all, and if you're thinking about lighting up some firecrackers late at night ... perhaps consider your sleeping neighbors first.