Dos and Don’ts for fireworks in your community

Fat Boys Fireworks, one of many fireworks stands around the county, is located by the Marathon station in South Vinemont. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Firework stands are beginning to appear throughout Cullman County in the days leading up to Independence Day. Depending on where a person lives in Cullman County, the use of consumer-grade fireworks may or may not be allowed.

While there are no ordinances in unincorporated areas of Cullman County or in the city of Good Hope restricting the sale and use of fireworks, the city of Hanceville has ordinances limiting the use of fireworks. The city of Cullman goes further with a total ban on the sale or use of consumer-grade fireworks.

City of Cullman

Cullman Fire Marshal Chris Chaffin explained, “In the city of Cullman, by ordinance, it has been on the books since 1920-something but also added in 1960, the use of fireworks in the city limits in the consumer-grade, like your normal fireworks you buy at the fireworks stands, that’s been by ordinance, not allowed.”

Fireworks can’t be sold, manufactured or stored in the city limits of Cullman.

He added, “It’s OK to go to a fireworks show. That falls under different parameters where those are not consumer-grade fireworks. They have higher charges and have to be shot by professionals with certifications and have been vetted by the ATF. They also have permits through the State Fire Marshal’s Office that show they have had proper training; they’ve been to shooting schools. So, we recommend people just go watch those. One, you don’t have to clean up the mess that’s always in your yard, and it’s normally a better display than you can buy at a consumer stand.”

Chaffin said consumer stands do offer some fireworks that can produce a good display and he understands people are going to buy fireworks, but, he said, “Watching a show with music is what we recommend and is a lot safer.”

He also recommends that fireworks be kept away from children, houses and any dry areas such as woods or hay fields.

“The smallest thing can start a fire,” Chaffin said.

Every once in a while, a consumer may experience a firework that is a dud. Chaffin recommends not approaching it for at least an hour. Afterward, he said, soak it in water overnight to reduce the chance of it discharging.

Sparklers are also a big safety concern; Chaffin said, “If people read up on that, that sparkler burns at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not easily put out, so handing that to a small child to run around in the yard- one, it’s a metal stick, and two, it burns at 1,200 degrees. They get that on their skin and they are going to get burned.”

Sky lanterns are also not allowed, due to the International Fire Code that was adopted by the City of Cullman several years ago. In fact, the use of sky lanterns is prohibited in the state of Alabama.

Chaffin explained, “Once you release that into the air, you have now ignited an uncontrolled burn. If it falls upon someone else’s property and say, burns their hay field or burns their barn or any of that, you could be charged with a crime because you didn’t take care of the fire.” 

The National Fire Protection Association recommends not using sky lanterns at all.

Chaffin added, “When it falls, there’s still garbage and trash left over. It doesn’t burn up, and some of them have metal rings in them and they can fall anywhere.”

City of Hanceville

The City of Hanceville has restrictions on fireworks but does allow them to be used from 5 p.m. on the 4th of July through 1 a.m. July 5. Although the City does allow fireworks, there are still some limitations.

One such restriction is on the use of bottle rockets and similar fireworks. Ordinance 581 reads, “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, throw, use, explode, detonate or shoot, within the City limits, bottle rockets, rockets of all types and size and any and all fireworks with an aerial trajectory having a cylinder or a cartridge that is not intended to be completely consumed before landing.”

The ordinance also states that fireworks must be discharged on the consumer’s own property and not toward anybody else’s property or person. Fireworks cannot be used by anybody on City property or any parks or playgrounds.

Hanceville Fire Chief Roger Green said, “Of course, we don’t allow shooting fireworks at parks, playgrounds, schools, churches or parking lots or anything like that. It has to be done on their own private property.”

He reminds residents that all City ordinances are available on the City of Hanceville’s website.

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Christy Perry