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Having a blast – safely

Nothing says Fourth of July quite like the sound of fireworks. Music to some ears and a pain to others, allowing for a fitting celebration without creating a hazard or undue annoyance should be a goal this week.

Drought a year ago prompted a countywide burn ban and eliminated most public fireworks. Area residents mostly observed the ban on personal fireworks use last summer, but that’s likely to translate into pent-up demand for a boisterous holiday week this year.

The state’s sorry history of fireworks regulation adds to the confusion about what is allowed and when. As imports of Chinese-made pyrotechnics became available, backyard celebrations evolved from sparklers and fountains to missiles, firecrackers and Roman candles. Fireworks-buyers once signed affidavits affirming they would use certain types of fireworks only out of state, but a 2006 revision eliminated that charade.

Under intense pressure from the fireworks lobby, the General Assembly pretty much blew the top off restrictions in exchange for a 5 percent surtax to support the Indiana Disaster Relief Fund and firefighter training. Reluctantly, they allowed communities to add some tighter restrictions but barred local governments from prohibiting fireworks during certain hours on the five days preceding and following the Fourth of July.

Here are current state guidelines:

•Fireworks may be used only on the user’s property or the property of someone who has consented to them.

•Only people 18 or older may buy fireworks. Children may possess or use any kind of firework only when an adult is present.

•Penalties for violating the fireworks law can range from a Class A misdemeanor up to a Class C felony in the case of the reckless or intentional use of fireworks that results in someone’s death.

•Where permitted, fireworks use is restricted to 9 a.m. to midnight on the Fourth of July, as well as Memorial Day, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. Any other day of the year fireworks may be discharged from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

•The city of Fort Wayne’s ordinance restricts fireworks use from 5 p.m. until two hours after dusk from June 29 to July 3 and again from July 5 to July 9.

Separate restrictions apply to Memorial Day, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve.

The powerful fireworks lobby has ensured there will be no such thing as a quiet Independence Day, but residents should take care to make it safe and respectful of others.