If you want to get your hands on some fireworks for the Fourth of July, there’s a few things you should know.
Pennsylvania adopted a new fireworks law in 2017, making it easier to buy the more show-stopping variety, though a bill being sidelined makes finding them a bit more difficult.
And Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill into law Wednesday that no longer prohibits using “consumer fireworks” in Philly. But that doesn’t mean you should necessarily head straight to the backyard.
“While it can be tempting to get in on the action on July Fourth and other holidays, we always encourage Philadelphians to leave fireworks to the experts,” Kenney said in a statement.
While more powerful types of fireworks have become more accessible, a sidelined bill in Harrisburg has slightly complicated the process of where to buy them.
In October 2017, legislators legalized the purchase of explosive fireworks, meaning that Pennsylvanians could scrap the sparklers for “consumer fireworks” — think Roman candles, bottle rockets, missile-type rockets, firecrackers, and mortars. Those big fireworks you see on the Parkway? Those are still for professionals only, or operators with special permits.
While then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lifted the Garden State’s complete ban on the sale and possession of fireworks in 2017, the move wasn’t entirely liberating. New Jersey residents are restricted to non-airborne and non-explosive options like sparklers, poppers, and snappers.
There’s no chance of snagging the bigger displays from popular pop-up tent sales this year.
A recent court case made the vendors selling aerial fireworks illegal, and state legislators distracted by the budget failed to act on a bill that could have allowed the tents to be back in business in time for Independence Day. Additionally, in Philadelphia, City Council recently passed a bill prohibiting the sale of fireworks by sidewalk vendors.
So Pennsylvanians need to stick to brick-and-mortar stores for purchases of fancy fireworks. The Department of Agriculture has a database of sites. The closest permanent facilities to the city, according to the database, are:
The sales regulations have changed, but whether you can fire them off in your backyard is up to local law.
On Wednesday, Kenney signed into law a new Philadelphia Fire Code that no longer prohibits the use of “consumer fireworks," confirmed Lauren Cox, a spokesperson in the mayor’s office.
Don’t get too excited, however. The code says consumer fireworks can’t be used within 150 feet of an “occupied structure” or set off without the property owner’s permission. So in a place as densely populated as Philadelphia, it’s nearly impossible to set off fireworks legally and safely.
While Philadelphia police said no summary citations were issued for the last two years, a spokesperson said “a plethora of charges” could come from setting off fireworks illegally. State police say illegal use of fireworks can be punished with a $100 fine.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper John Stewart stressed that residents should check in with local officials before partaking in the fun.
“Obviously you can purchase them anywhere in Pennsylvania, within the restrictions and guidelines that are set forth they can be shot off," he said, adding that residents should check with their local municipality.
Allentown’s fire captain, for example, told Lehigh Valley Live that “a sparkler is just about the only thing that’s allowed in the city,” while State Rep. Frank Farry (R., Bucks) is pushing a bill that would create time restrictions, signage rules, and hiked fines.
Here are some other rules to abide by, according to the Pennsylvania State Police:
Here’s what to know in New Jersey:
Sound too complicated? There are plenty of fireworks displays happening this week around Philadelphia, the suburbs, and the Shore. Reporters Bethany Ao and Grace Dickinson rounded up a comprehensive list of where you should head.