Further Fireworks in Kentucky

Jun 9, 2011

Many people might consider fireworks to be as much a part of the American fabric as apple pie, particularly during this time of year.  In Kentucky, it’s likely you’ll be seeing more flashes and hearing more bangs.  A new law opens the door to many fireworks previously deemed illegal in the commonwealth.

Hundreds of cars travel down Nicholasville road outside Lexington each day.  Motorists will likely catch a glimpse of America flags along with a large sign signaling the opening of Mike’s Fireworks.

“The way you thought about what you could sell in the state of Kentucky is things that had to stay on the ground.  Well now everything that goes up in the air you could sell up to the legal limit of class c,” said Samaan.

Mike Samaan has been in wholesale and retail fireworks for years.  It’s a brand new day for selling fireworks.

“You know we’ll be able to sell bottle rockets, we’ll be able to sell re-loadables, we’ll be able to sell firecrackers,” said Samaan.

The reality is fireworks have been illegally flying through the air in Kentucky communities for decades.  Most of it purchased in surrounding states and brought back to Kentucky.  Police simply don’t have the numbers to cite neighbor after neighbor.  State Fire Marshall William Swope says the new law requires new registration procedures.

“Fire departments across the state will have a great idea of where fireworks are now being stored should any type of incident take place,” said Swope.

Under the new law, no one under 18 can purchase fireworks.  There are limitations on the power of fireworks, with some designated only for professional shows.  

For years, many Kentuckians have traveled to Tennessee for their fireworks.  Tennessee Fireworks Association director Ernest Clevenger claims Kentucky missed the mark with its new law.  He says it still prohibits almost a quarter of the fireworks currently sold in Tennessee.  Clevenger says his vendors were looking forward to setting up stands in Kentucky.

“Some of the vendors that would have opened up into Kentucky are not doing so because of the limitation,” added Clevenger.

Still, Mike Samaan says the selection of fireworks at his stores has increased by about 90 percent.  And the new law means more money to the state.  There’s new permit fees along with the additional sales tax revenues.

“For this store alone it’s 500 dollars for tents it’s a hundred dollars or 200 dollars I’m not really sure.  And if you have a warehouse that you store your stuff in it’s a thousand dollars, so it brings in quite a bit of money to the state,” said Samaan.

For some the sale of additional fireworks brings with it concern about injuries.  Dr. Roger Humphries the chair of the University of Kentucky’s department of emergency medicine.  He says every year serious burns and eye injuries are seen in the emergency department.  Humphries worries numbers of injuries will go up.

“So any time we’re gonna have the potential for more exposure, then we’re gonna have more injuries obviously.  It seems that this law will likely potentiate more exposure,” said Humphries.

Fire Marshall William Swope says safety issues could be addressed in pamphlets and radio spots this summer.  Fireworks retailer, Mike Samaan admits accidents happen.  He says they would occur less often if more attention was paid to directions..

“Don’t hold your fireworks in your hand.  Don’t look on down on the tube.  Make sure there’s a supervised adult with you when you light.  These are simple things that a lot of people avoid paying attention to,” explained Samaan.

Kentucky’s new law on fireworks does allow for local decision making.  Fire marshall Swope says governing bodies can opt out.

“There’s now language in the law that says that local communities through ordinances can restrict or if they so choose eliminate fireworks within their community,” said Swope.

Swope says those kinds of local government decisions could come right up until the fourth of July.  He says permit applications had been running about in line with last year.  So it’s difficult to say what impact the new law may have on the number of stands going up across Kentucky...