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Number of fireworks retail locations increases this year in West Virginia

Do you know these safety tips for fireworks?

By Wendy Holdren

The Register-Herald of Beckley

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Ten flags flapped in the breeze atop a white plastic pop-up tent — six red, white and blue American flags and four red and yellow TNT Fireworks flags. ¶ Inside, Roger Brogan of Prosperity prepared for the holiday weekend as he restocked the tables with an assortment of fireworks, including powerful consumer grade fireworks legal in West Virginia only since last year. ¶ He said his fireworks setup, located in the parking lot between Walmart and Sam’s Club gas station in Beckley, has seen steady sales this year, but he knows he’s facing a lot more competition than a couple years ago.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, licenses for the sales of fireworks have increased by roughly 8 percent since last year.

Tim Rock, public information specialist with the Fire Marshal’s Office, said there are 56 permanent locations selling fireworks in the state (such as buildings and retailers like Walmart) and 191 temporary locations (such tents and pop-up shops). Sparklers and other novelty fireworks items are sold at 149 locations in the state.

The state law passed last year requires temporary retail sales locations to pay a $500 fee to the state fire marshal, and permanent sales locations must pay a $1,000 fee. Rock said licensing fees generated $171,000 last year, and $187,000 this year.

Retailers must also provide proof of public liability and product liability insurance with minimum coverage of $1 million to cover losses, damages or injuries that might result from selling consumer fireworks.

Brogan is a sales representative for a larger fireworks company, which takes care of the fees and insurance for him.

Another fireworks tent just a few miles from Brogan’s, located at the intersection beside Mountain State Ford, is being manned by David Gravely and Tyler Evans. They, too, said they’ve seen a steady influx of shoppers, but they expected sales to increase this weekend.

Types of fireworks legal for sale in West Virginia include hand-held and ground-based sparkling devices such as sparklers, novelties, and toy caps; bottle rockets; missile-type rockets; helicopter and aerial spinners; Roman candles; aerial mine and shell devices; aerial shell kits with reloadable tubes; and firecrackers.

Evans said the majority of their sales so far have been bottle rockets and mine fireworks.

Consumers who purchase fireworks must not only pay sales tax, but an additional fireworks safety fee of 12 percent. The law mandates 75 percent of the fee will be deposited into the Veterans’ Facility Support Fund. The remaining 25 percent will be deposited into the Fire Protection Fund, and the state treasurer will allocate funding to volunteer fire departments.

Gina Joynes with the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office said between July 2016 and May 2017, more than $760,000 was collected in fireworks safety fees.

Rock noted that the State Fire Marshal’s Office does not create state law or supersede any municipal codes or ordinances — “We’re just the regulation and licensing of it.”

Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold said fireworks are currently allowed in the city limits, but he asks residents to be mindful of the city’s noise ordinance and be respectful of neighbors.

“We haven’t had as many complaints as I thought we would have,” Rappold said. “I hear these at night myself, but the ones I’ve picked up on, they’re far enough away that I haven’t found it personally distracting or offensive.”

If more issues arise in the future, as the law has only been in effect since last year, Rappold said the city may draft an ordinance to more specifically address the use of fireworks. For now, the city allows complaints to be policed under the noise ordinance.

FIREWORKS SAFETY TIPS

The National Fire Protection Association offers the following fireworks safety tips:

• Children should never use fireworks without adult supervision.

• Make sure children keep sparklers away from hair, face, and clothing.

• Even sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. They should only be used outside and with close adult supervision. Sparklers that have bamboo stems stay cooler than ones with metal stems.

• Always use fireworks outside and away from the house, on a hard flat level surface. This surface should be fireproof and free from leaves, grass, or other debris.

• Have a hose and bucket of water nearby when fireworks are being used.

• Light one firework at a time, and do not put the firework into any glass or metal container.

• Make sure all people in the area are aware that fireworks are being used.

• Keep spectators at a safe distance and point the fireworks away from people and homes. Fireworks can catch a roof on fire if they land on it.

• Never hold any consumer firework in your hand or have your body over the firework while you are  lighting it.

• Wear eye protection, such as safety glasses, while you are setting off the fireworks.

• Light one firework at a time.

• Never pick up a dud or relight a dud. Leave it lying on the ground, wait 15 minutes, and then douse it in a bucket of water.

• Never pick up used fireworks. Used fireworks can be hot even if they are not smoldering.

• Douse all used fireworks and duds in a bucket of water before putting them in the trash.

• Have the fire department and emergency management system telephone number readily available before beginning to use fireworks.

• Have a first aid kit available should anyone get injured by using fireworks.

 

— Email: [email protected] and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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