Despite what you may have heard in your backyard this past week, setting off fireworks is illegal in St. Louis and much of the metro area.
St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says it’s for a good reason—more than a quarter of all house fires that occur in the area over Independence Day weekend are started by fireworks.
But, he says, nearby stores that sell fireworks pose a temptation.
“Every year we have quite a few people that don’t follow that ordinance because there are so many municipalities that sell the fireworks,” said Jenkerson.
But breaking the city law can cost you a $300 to $500 fine, not to mention money wasted on any fireworks confiscated.
Jenkerson says the density of homes in the city means the risk of damaging your neighbor’s property is higher than in the suburbs. He says bottle rockets are especially dangerous.
“Bottle rockets go up high, they get stuck in the roof, they get stuck in the soffit area of a house, they go into garages. We had a garage fire the other night…probably started by fireworks,” Jenkerson said.
Jenkerson says many Fourth of July fires start in dumpsters, after someone tries to hide the evidence of using fireworks or possibly even damaging a neighbor’s property.
“That dumpster, in the city, is usually located behind a garage. Then it catches the garage on fire, and then it transfers to the house,” Jenkerson said. “And who’s going to be liable? The person who bought the fireworks.”
The fire chief also warns that fireworks can lead to serious medical emergencies. He says the amount of injuries the fire department sees on a typical day around the Fourth of July is alarming.
Eye injuries make up more than a third of all medical accidents due to fireworks.
“How many parents want to look at their child with a bottle rocket that just hit them in the eye or a fire cracker that went off and now they can’t see, they got a burned eye?” Jenkerson said.
The St. Louis Fire Department urges everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals. People can find professional firework displays throughout the area this weekend.
For a map of public fireworks displays, check out the Post-Dispatch.