snakes, sparklers and smoke balls, oh my!

I can remember spending hours on my great aunt’s brick patio, setting off fireworks. All the cousins would put their smoke balls, snakes and sparklers together for an afternoon of sulphur-smelling delight.

I always asked for a sparkler, and sometimes one of my older cousins would light it for me. But most of the time, I became afraid of the jumping sparks that would creep closer and closer to my vulnerable hands. I’d throw the still-lit wand on the patio … to the groans and taunts of everyone around me.

“Abbey! We’re not lighting another one for you!”

Fireworks are imbedded in the memory of many. It’s not the Fourth of July without a few close calls with some sparklers. But whether it’s smoke balls in the driveway or spider shells spreading across the night sky, there are laws and safety precautions to keep in mind.

Pennsylvania firework laws can be confusing and can differ from town to town, depending on the type of firework and the local laws. Here’s some information to help clear the smoke a bit!

There are two main types of fireworks: Display and consumer.

Consumer fireworks are the little guys, with a much weaker explosive power. These are the types of fireworks sold at stands that people buy for their own use. Similar to other consumer products, they are often wrapped in colorful paper with brands and company logos on display.

Despite the name, consumer fireworks aren’t available for purchase to everyone. According to state law Pennsylvania residents must have a permit to purchase consumer fireworks. However, Mt. Lebanon does not give out permits for consumer fireworks. But there are exceptions. Permits are not required for “ground and hand-held sparkling devices,” “novelties” and “toy caps.” Those items include fireworks like sparklers, smoke balls and snap bags. Mt. Lebanon residents can still purchase those small ground and hand-held items.

Display fireworks are the big ones–the ones you see in parks and public spaces. Permits are also required for display fireworks and they often require insurance. In Mt. Lebanon, there are no permits issued for display fireworks either, so the only big fireworks residents will see within the municipality, are likely coming from the parks and not someone’s back yard.

Deputy Chief Timothy Brown of the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department asks residents to leave the fireworks to the professionals, even the novelty items. “We would really rather people not mess with fireworks,” he says. “Just come out to the park and enjoy them there.”

Brown added that even with novelty fireworks, there’s still the risk of burns, especially among children.

For more information on firework permits and safety contact the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department, 412-343-3402.

If you have a concern contact the Mt. Lebanon Police at 9-1-1.