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State Fire Marshal Urges Consumers to Ring in 2019 with Safety in Mind

Fireworks Caused 377 Unintentional Fires from 2013-2017
Friday, December 28, 2018 | 10:14am

NASHVILLE – Fireworks can ensure your New Year rings in with a bang, but they can also pose safety concerns for consumers who choose to produce their own backyard show. To avoid injuries or starting a fire, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is advising residents to always leave fireworks to the experts for the New Year’s celebration.

“Celebrating the start of a new year with a fireworks display is a tradition for many residents,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “While fireworks are fun to watch, they can also pose a safety hazard for those detonating them. We encourage consumers to attend public displays run by professionals to keep their New Year’s activities safe and fun.”

Thousands of people, most often children and teens, are seriously injured each year because of fireworks. In Tennessee, fireworks caused 377 unintended fires and resulted in over $1 million in property damages and one death from 2013-2017 according to state fire data. The State Fire Marshal’s Office strongly advises that individuals attend organized public fireworks displays where compliance with state-of- the-art fire codes offers a safer way to ring in a new year.

If consumers choose to shoot fireworks themselves, they should familiarize themselves with local fireworks laws. Several counties and cities in Tennessee have ordinances and restrictions related to fireworks usage. Before purchasing or detonating fireworks, the SFMO urges residents to check with their local police or fire departments to determine local laws about fireworks.

In addition to local laws, Tennessee has several state laws pertaining to fireworks:

  • A 2007 Tennessee law prevents children under 16 from purchasing fireworks. Those who are 16 or 17 must present a photo ID to purchase them.
  • State legislation passed in 2011 reclassified sky lanterns as special fireworks exclusively for use by individuals with a professional license. The general public cannot purchase or use sky lanterns. If a sky lantern is found in the possession of someone who does not have a professional license issued by the SFMO, the device can be confiscated and destroyed.
  • A law passed in 2015 prohibits flying a drone (unmanned aircraft) above an outdoor ticketed event with more than 100 people, or in the vicinity of a fireworks display site, without the permission of the event operator.

If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to use them, the SFMO offers the following safety tips:

  • Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks – this includes sparklers. Sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Sparklers can reach temperatures as high as 1,200° F, and stay hot long after they’ve burned out. You wouldn’t hand a matchbook or lighter to a child to wave so never give a sparkler to a child. 
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks. Never throw or point fireworks at people or animals.
  • Only light fireworks outdoors on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves and flammable materials.
  • Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
  • The SFMO advises all Tennessee homeowners to have working smoke alarms installed on every level of their homes, including the basement. Additionally, homeowners should create a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place. Practice the plan with all family members of your household both at night and during the day.

For more fire safety information, visit tn.gov/fire.