With 4th of July displays canceled, a reminder that personal fireworks are illegal in Hampton Roads

July 4th

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – The 4th of July holiday is going to look different this summer. Local cities have canceled their annual, professional firework displays because of the coronavirus pandemic. While you may be tempted to celebrate the holiday with your own show, know that personal firework use is banned in Virginia.

“COVID-19 has covered many of our pastimes and traditions with a wet blanket. We anticipate that this Fourth of July, Virginians will take to their own devices to celebrate the holiday in their backyards or neighborhoods,” said VDFP Executive Director Michael Reilly. “On top of limited fireworks displays, we’re dealing with limitations in how we assemble. This formula makes celebrating the Fourth of July holiday logistically complicated.”

In general, any firework that explodes, moves on the ground or in the air, or shoots a projectile is illegal in Virginia. Some of these illegal fireworks are better known as firecrackers, torpedo, bottle rockets, and mortars. In the commonwealth, the offense for illegal fireworks is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

Consumer Fireworks

Virginia

Review the specific fireworks code in your area:

Chesapeake
It is illegal to possess, manufacture, store, sell, handle or use fireworks in Chesapeake.

Hampton
The City of Hampton Prevention Code bans the use and possession of all fireworks, with the exception of sparklers. Permits are required for public or private display of fireworks or pyrotechnics. 

Newport News
It is illegal to own, sell, possess, store, display, use, explode or manufacture any fireworks — including pinwheels, sparklers, fountains or Pharaoh’s serpents — without a permit issued by the fire marshal.

Norfolk
The possession or use of fireworks is prohibited within the city, except for fireworks approved by permit according to the rules and regulations of the fire official. The term fireworks includes pinwheels, fountains and pharaoh serpents. The manufacture, sale, possession or use of any fireworks, without the permission of the fire official, is unlawful. 

Portsmouth
It is illegal to possess, sell, or store fireworks in the City of Portsmouth as described in Sec 13.101 in the City Code. Portsmouth PD and Portsmouth Fire Marshals can enforce a class 1 misdemeanor for the offense.

Suffolk
It is a violation of the City Code to store, to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any fireworks. Fireworks means and includes any combustible or explosive composition, or any substance or combination of substances, or article prepared for the purpose of producing a visible or an audible effect by combustion, explosion, deflagration or detonation, and shall include blank cartridges, toy pistols, toy cannons, toy canes or toy guns in which explosives are used, the type of balloons which require fire underneath to propel the balloons, firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, Roman candles, dago bombs, sparklers or other devices of like construction and any device containing any explosive or flammable compound, or any tablets or other devices containing any explosive substance. The fire marshal shall seize, take, remove or cause to be removed, at the expense of the owner, all stocks of fireworks offered or exposed for display or sale, stored or held in violation.

Virginia Beach
It is illegal to transport, manufacture, assemble, store, sell, offer or display for sale, or to buy, use, possess, ignite or explode any firecracker, torpedo, sky rocket, sparkler, or other substance or device that contains any explosive or flammable compound or substance, and is intended or commonly known as fireworks, and which explodes, rises into the air or travels laterally, fires projectiles or discharges sparks into the air.

North Carolina

Illegal fireworks in the state of North Carolina include devices that leave the ground, such as bottle rockets and mortars, and have a report or ‘bang’. Examples of these include firecrackers and M80s. These types of devices are not legally available in North Carolina.

According to Dare County officials, the use of legal fireworks is allowed in the towns of Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills as well as the unincorporated areas of Roanoke Island and the Dare mainland villages. Pyrotechnics, commonly known as ‘Safe and Sane’ fireworks, are the only fireworks legally allowed in areas of North Carolina where local ordinances don’t prohibit their use entirely. These devices include caps, snakes and glow worms, smoke devices, trick noise makers, sparklers, and other sparkling devices such as fountains.


If you travel to an area where it is legal to possess fireworks (or if you are lighting something as seemingly harmless as sparklers) here’s what you need to know from the National Safety Council to be safe:

  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks (see above.) Call your local police department with questions.
  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities.  Never give fireworks to children.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.  Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

Above all, 10 On Your Side wants you to be safe and happy this 4th of July. Remember to have a designated driver or call a cab if you celebrated a little too much.

Have fun, be safe, and Happy 4th of July, Hampton Roads!

Related Links:

Virginia Department of Forestry Fireworks Safety

Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office statement on Fourth of July 2020

Virginia Law on Explosives and Fireworks

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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