Independence Day Brings Nationwide Fireworks—What to Know

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
July 3, 2024US News
Independence Day Brings Nationwide Fireworks—What to Know
Jaydon Christen stands beside a display at a fireworks stand in Vienna, Va., on July 3, 2024. (Joseph Lord/The Epoch Times)

WASHINGTON—The 4th of July has become inextricably linked to fireworks in the American psyche. Many people who grew up in America will have childhood memories of hot-weather cookouts and the smell of grilling meat, coupled with the barely restrained anticipation of waiting for dusk so the fun could begin.

It’s almost like a reverse Christmas: furtive glances at the colorful boxes that you know will soon be blown to bits, and waiting for the sun to go down just enough for sparklers and bottle rockets to become relevant.

The connection between Independence Day and fireworks is not a modern aberration. In 1777, one year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Congress adjourned to celebrate and the first fireworks displays were held in Philadelphia and Boston to commemorate the event. Nearly 100 years later in 1870, the 4th of July was established as a federal holiday.

Americans will detonate over 400 million pounds of fireworks this year; many cities across the nation will hold state-sponsored public exhibitions. Those who don’t purchase their own will sit on their porches or lawns and watch the show put on by their neighbors.

Macy’s 4th of July display in New York will draw the largest crowds: Over 30 million are expected to watch in person and on television. The Macy’s show is produced by Pyro Spectaculars, the same company that coordinates shows for the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Cup, and the World Series.

DC’s own show will take place at the iconic Washington Monument, with the colorful night sky mirrored in the reflecting pool below.

What’s Allowed?

Consumer fireworks are at least partially legal in every state except Massachusetts, where they may only be used in professional pyrotechnic displays. Some states like New York and New Jersey have limitations on private use of aerial fireworks, and most states impose some sort of restriction on the size and power that private consumers can buy.

Sule Qazi, manager of Gorilla Fireworks in Fairfax, Virginia, told The Epoch Times that Virginia and Maryland only allow the sale of ground-based fireworks like “fountains,” and sparklers.

“Other states like West Virginia permit the sale of everything; South Carolina, Florida…  It’s governed state by state, county by county,” he said.

Fireworks are legal in some parts of Texas, but the Cibolo police department issued a reminder that they are banned in their city.

Most holidays in America produce a miniature economic boom (pun intended), and the 4th is no different. In addition to all the food and alcohol purchases, Americans will spend a few dollars on firecrackers and bottle rockets.

Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association has high hopes that this year will be lucrative for fireworks vendors.

“Our member companies are reporting strong consumer fireworks sales numbers, and we predict revenues could exceed $2.4 billion for the 2024 fireworks season,” she said.

Ms. Heckman added that fireworks prices have decreased 5–10 percent due to falling shipping costs as the world continues to shake off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Qazi said the work is “as seasonal as any business gets.” During the off-season he said the company’s main focus is still fireworks, but they also have other revenue streams like Christmas trees. He estimated that the average family will spend about $100 on fireworks, but the spending threshold can vary widely.

“When I say ‘average,’ some people come and spend $20, you get some people that spend $500,” he said.

Safety First

Of course, explosion lovers must be careful. Every year brings a new litany of injury statistics. Mr. Qazi said these are unlikely as long as users obey specific instructions, even on larger fireworks.

“When you hear about stuff on the news, there’s usually some foul play, and the foul play is that it was not used as it’s intended,” he said.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC), 2023 saw around 9,700 injuries from fireworks, over 6,000 of which took place between June 16 and July 16. Eight of these were fatal. The good news: the number appears to be dropping—there were over 15,000 injuries in 2020.

USCPSC provides some common sense safety tips: keep a source of water handy in case of fires, don’t let small children handle any fireworks, and never throw or point lit fireworks at anyone. This last tip is important, since 35 percent of fireworks injuries occur in relation to the hands or fingers.

Silent Fireworks?

Not everyone finds joy in the annual, city-wide pyrotechnic displays. The flashing lights and sounds, which begin as the sun sets and may go on for hours, can be a source of anxiety for some.

Veterans Affairs (VA) groups warn that the sounds and lights from fireworks may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in those who have experienced war. This year, the Montana VA released a public service announcement asking residents to be considerate of veterans and avoid setting off surprise fireworks.

“Fireworks can create sights, sounds and smells that can activate flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety, Montana VA Executive Director Duane Gill said.

“Every Montanan can and should help Veterans with PTSD avoid surprise fireworks. We encourage all Montanans, and especially non-Veterans, to be thoughtful of our neighbors who helped earn the freedom we celebrate on the Fourth of July.”  The announcement provided trauma support hotline numbers, and a link to an app designed to help manage PTSD.

Similar problems can arise with children suffering from autism, and some autism advocacy groups have issued guides to help navigate Independence day without trauma.

What About Fido?

Of course, pets have a harder time communicating verbally or using digital apps, and every year many animal advocate groups come out in favor of eliminating fireworks entirely, or making a switch to “silent” fireworks that produce only the visual display with none of the explosive pops that over-excite our furry friends.

The Humane Society warns that many wild animals also will be spooked by the explosions and lights, and sometimes flee their nesting grounds, never to return. It also raised concerns about the effect of pollutants, like spent gunpowder pellets and smoke.

The American Veterinary Medical Association also issued some helpful guidelines, such as keeping pets at home in a secure safe space to keep them from bolting out of fear.

Mr. Qazi is a pet-owner and says he uses a “thunder jacket,” a sort of relaxing vest, to keep his dog calm while the fireworks displays are taking place. “It’s one day a year… a lot of pets sometimes get used to them if they’re around them long enough,” he said.

From The Epoch Times