River Falls Days? Canceled. Fireworks in New Richmond’s Hatfield Park? Not this year. Hudson? Nope.

Red Wing is one of the few communities in the area still hosting a July 4 fireworks display, while most others have been canceled due to the pandemic. And that could mean greater temptation to try to recreate the “ooh and awe” at home.

“I think COVID-19 will play a significant role with the amount of fireworks being set off this year,” said Tom Overland, neighborhood resource officer with River Falls Police Department.

Overland said he wanted to remind residents about state and local restrictions on fireworks.

An easy rule of thumb: Anything that leaves the ground or explodes is off limits without a permit.

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In many cities, including River Falls, special event applications for a fireworks permit need to be submitted 30 days in advance. Selling, possessing or using restricted fireworks without a permit in Wisconsin is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.

In the absence of public displays this Independence Day, the National Fire Protection Association suggested skipping fireworks and finding alternative ways to celebrate.

“Fireworks are simply too dangerous and unpredictable to be used safely by consumers,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of outreach and advocacy at NFPA. “Even sparklers, which are often considered harmless enough for children, burn as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause third-degree burns.”

She added that avoiding fireworks-related injuries will be doing a favor to medical workers already under additional stress due to the pandemic.

There were 91 emergency department visits related to fireworks in Wisconsin in 2018, according to the most recent numbers reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Nationally, an average of 180 people visit the emergency room daily with fireworks-related injuries in the month surrounding the Fourth of July, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Wisconsin DHS offers these safety tips:

  • Always read and follow all warnings and label instructions.
  • Always have an adult present, and never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • The adult igniting the fireworks should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework.
  • Buy from reliable sellers.
  • Use fireworks only outdoors.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
  • Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
  • Light only one firework at a time.

Here’s a rundown of the Wisconsin and Minnesota fireworks laws:

Wisconsin

State law allows the sale, possession and use, without a permit, of sparklers not exceeding 36 inches in length, stationary cones and fountains, toy snakes, smoke bombs, caps, noisemakers, confetti poppers with less than 1/4 grain of explosive mixture, and novelty devices that spin or move on the ground. There is no age restriction on sale, possession or use of these devices and the statute does not classify them as fireworks. Local ordinances may be more restrictive than state statutes and may prohibit any of these items or limit their sale or use.

Minnesota

The sale, possession and use of certain non-explosive and non-aerial consumer fireworks is permitted in Minnesota. Examples of legal fireworks include sparklers, cones and tubes that emit sparks, novelty items like snakes and party poppers. Consumer fireworks may not be used on public property (i.e. parks, roads, alleys, schools, government property, etc.). Purchasers of consumer fireworks must be at least 18 years old and retailers are required to check photo identification of purchasers before selling these products.