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Illegal fireworks could cost you more than money

Published: Jul. 4, 2018 at 2:58 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2018 at 8:02 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Fourth of July means fireworks, and while many of us will be enjoying one of several amazing fireworks shows around Central Virginia, fire officials say anyone thinking of putting on a "do it yourself" display - should leave it to the professionals.

Possession of illegal fireworks could cost you a very big fine, and many can be very dangerous.

"Our biggest concern this time of the year is fireworks," said Virginia State Fire Marshal Brian McGraw.

When it comes to Independence Day, most of us think of fireworks. For McGraw, it's the busiest day of the year for his office.

"In Virginia, we restrict the type of fireworks that people can use," said McGraw. "Anything that shoots projectiles, explodes, does showers of sparks more than 16 feet in the air or travels on its own is considered illegal."

The Virginia Fire Marshals are responsible for over half the state when it comes to confiscating illegal fireworks.

"We respond to complaints of people having illegal fireworks, we check firework stands in areas that we're responsible for," said McGraw.

On average, they seize anywhere between 200 and 300 fireworks a year. This year, they had a pretty big spike.

"So far this year, we're well over 2000 illegal items that we've confiscated," said McGraw.

As you can imagine, it's not hard to come by the big guns.

"Sometimes, the vendors have the illegal stuff, but it's not out for display," said McGraw. "If you ask the right question, 'sure, we've got some of that good stuff.'"

McGraw says being in possession of "the good stuff" is a class-one misdemeanor. If charged, you could face up to a year in prison plus a $2,500 fine.

Illegal fireworks could cost you more than money.

"We actually had an incident within the Commonwealth last year. An individual was using mortars - he loaded it upside down and he winded up losing a hand," said McGraw.

McGraw says even legal sparklers can cause serious burns, and if you plan on using fireworks, make sure to have a water source available in case a fire should break out. Thoroughly soak all fireworks after use, and don't use them while under the influence.

"We do want people to have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July," said McGraw. "We don't want to see people get hurt, or worse - killed."

You're better off leaving the fireworks to the pros, but if you really want to fire fireworks on your own, make sure they are legal and check your local rules before doing so.

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