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It’s legal to use consumer-grade fireworks three days a week in the state of Florida – the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. But it’s illegal to sell those fireworks in Florida, unless they’re being sold to scare away birds or other wildlife.
Oviedo Fire Chief Mike Woodword said firework vendors routinely sell fireworks using this loophole in the state’s rule, having buyers sign a waiver that says the fireworks are for agricultural purposes. He said this creates safety issues as the use of fireworks result in injuries and deaths every year nationwide.
Last year, the U.S. Consumer product Safety Commission reported a 50% increase in injuries and deaths resulting from fireworks-related incidents in 2020 from 2019. There were 18 deaths in 2020, up from 12 the year before and 15,600 injuries in 2020, up from 10,000 in 2019. The report cited an increase in civilian-set fireworks that year because many municipalities canceled their events.
On Monday night, the Oviedo City Council set a public hearing on April 18 to consider an ordinance that would establish a six-month moratorium on city permits for the sale of sparklers and other fireworks, to include this Fourth of July, while city staff investigates the issue further.
During a March 7 meeting, Woodward told the Council that the city issues the vendors permits to sell sparklers only, but as soon as the fire department inspects their tent and leaves, they fill the tent with fireworks. He said the city has fined the vendors and taken them to the city magistrate but it has not stopped the behavior.
He added that the vendors have said that they intend to sue local municipalities who try to stop them from operating.
“I’m really not looking for a fight on this,” Councilman Bob Pollack said during a March 7 meeting, when the issue was initially discussed. “Let someone else fight it. I’m OK with letting them sell fireworks a few days a year.”
But Councilman Jeff Boddiford said there needs to be some consequences if vendors are not following the rules.
Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert agreed.
“We do need consequences when people are just flouting what we’re saying they can do and then going in the other direction,” she said.
City Attorney David Hall said the Council can terminate the moratorium at any time, if litigation occurs.