Play It Safe

Fire Marshal: Leave The Big Booms To Professionals

Posted: July 3, 2014

Harrisonburg Fire Department Capt. Arthur Miller talks about illegal fireworks and safety for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. He urges people to stay safe and don’t break the law by attending a professional show, rather than shooting off illegal fireworks. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Harrisonburg Fire Department displays some of the illegal fireworks confiscated during last year’s July 4 holiday. HFD Capt. Arthur Miller says the department has a zero-tolerance policy. State law permits ground-based “fountain” fireworks, but all types of fireworks, including sparklers, are banned in Harrisonburg.

HARRISONBURG — Fireworks have been lighting up the skies around the central Shenandoah Valley for the last several days.

While they may be alluring, there’s a problem: In Virginia, any firework that explodes or shoots into the air is illegal.

State law permits ground-based “fountain” fireworks, but all types of fireworks, including sparklers, are banned in Harrisonburg.

Public safety officials are urging residents to play it safe and get their firework fix from a professional show.

Although illegal, firefighters say, it’s not uncommon for amateurs to set off fireworks on the days leading up to and on Independence Day.

Fire marshals say they’ll be out looking for violators.

“There’s a zero-tolerance policy,” said Capt. Arthur Miller, a fire marshal with the Harrisonburg Fire Department.

Shooting off an illegal firework is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Miller also said fire marshals will confiscate any remaining fireworks.

Not only is it illegal, but it can also be dangerous to shoot illegal fireworks, said Miller, who noted that even sparklers can cause serious burns because they remain hot after the sparks burn out.

He said sparklers are also often thrown on the ground, and people step on them with bare feet or pick them up too soon.

Fireworks can also damage property, especially in an urban area where housing is close together.

“If you shoot fireworks in the air, and it …  tips off a tree or power line, you don’t know where it will go,” Miller said. “It could hit a house.”

Miller recommends that residents enjoy a public display put on by professionals rather than launching the colorful devices into the sky themselves.

There are two professional shows on the holiday approved in Harrisonburg, one at Spotswood Country Club and another in downtown Harrisonburg.

“Watch a professional show.

…  It’s much bigger, [and] it’s much better,” he said.

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or

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