For one Aboite Township family, an early fireworks celebration proved costly. A fire early Sunday morning in the Grey Oaks subdivision off Covington Road was likely sparked by fireworks debris deposited in a trash can next to the house.
Gale Stelzer, fire chief for the Aboite Township Volunteer Fire Department, said an initial investigation determined the residents had been setting off fireworks the night before. They were awakened by smoke detectors and everyone escaped safely, but the home sustained severe damage.
The blaze is a reminder of the importance of maintaining working smoke detectors and the danger posed by retail fireworks. Most Indiana residents have heard plenty of reminders of the latter in recent weeks. Within city limits, those explosions should have ended at midnight on Memorial Day, but social media posts suggest some residents are getting an early – and illegal – start to their July 4th celebrations.
“We are the only city allowing fireworks (cannons) to go off for weeks!” wrote one north side resident. “Why are these allowed to go off for so long?”
“I moved to Pine Valley in Oct. although I have no issues with my dogs and fireworks, when they started going off last week, coming here from Fort Worth, TX, my husband and I immediately assumed drunks were firing guns in the air,” wrote another. “I haven't lived anywhere where fireworks have been legal within city limits for decades. This is an interesting turn of events.”
It's a fact that Indiana has an expansive fireworks law. State fire officials made a deal with legislators in 2006 to allow expanded fireworks use in exchange for establishing a 5% public safety fee on fireworks purchases. It directs $2 million a year for firefighter training and equipment costs and the rest goes to the state disaster relief fund.
Unless Hoosier voters tell lawmakers otherwise, the nightly explosions will continue. But every fireworks user should be aware of the danger.
“You've got to be careful,” Chief Stelzer said. “You don't want to light off fireworks in an addition. You've got to be careful not to set them off near anything flammable and you want to keep a bucket of water nearby for any that don't catch fire. When you are done, you want to soak them for a couple of hours. They may be hot and after a few hours they may catch back on fire.”
His final warning?
“Just be safe. Don't use illegal fireworks. It's better to kick back and let the experts handle it.”
State, local fireworks laws
Throughout the year it is legal to set off fireworks from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., but this may be limited further by local ordinances. The city of Fort Wayne ordinance limits fireworks use to the most restrictive period allowed under state law.
On state holidays it is legal to set off fireworks from 9 a.m. to midnight, but this may be limited further by local ordinances.
In Fort Wayne, fireworks use is permitted on Memorial Day and Labor Day and the days preceding each of those holidays from 10 a.m. until midnight.
The times on the following dates are protected in Indiana for consumer use of fireworks and may not be prohibited by local ordinance:
June 29 to July 3: 5 p.m. until two hours after sunset
July 4: 10 a.m. to midnight
July 5 to July 9: from 5 p.m. until two hours after sunset
Dec. 31: from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Fireworks can only be purchased by persons 18 years of age or older.
Fireworks use is limited to personal property, the property of someone who has approved the use of fireworks or a location designated specifically for the use of consumer fireworks.
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 a person's death.
Source: City of Fort Wayne, Indiana Department of Homeland Security