GEORGIA — A few years ago, Georgia residents had to travel to a neighboring state to legally set off their own fireworks. Then in 2015, the Georgia General Assembly enacted legislation that allows consumer fireworks to be sold and used in Georgia.
In July 2018, a new state law went into effect that provided clarity for how cities and counties could regulate fireworks within their boundaries.
It is illegal to set off fireworks within 100 yards of an electric plant, water or wastewater treatment plant, gas station, refinery, electric substation, jail or prison, helipad, nursing home or other health care facility.
It is also illegal to set them off within any park, recreational area, historic site or state-owned property or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if under the age of 18. The governor has the power to enact temporary restrictions in areas suffering from a severe drought.
The state law allows consumer fireworks to be ignited any day beginning at 10 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. so long as the fireworks do not violate a local noise ordinance.
The state also allows the use of fireworks on certain holidays regardless of local rules. Those holidays are Memorial Day weekend, July 3 and 4, Labor Day, and Dec. 31 until 11:59 p.m. and New Year’s Day from midnight to 1 a.m.
Though the law prevents cities from regulating fireworks on those holidays, it was still considered a win for local control, according to the Georgia Municipal Association. The law’s sponsors included State Reps. Jan Jones (R-Milton), Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta), and State Sen. John Albers, who represents parts of Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton and Roswell.
In Milton, fireworks are permitted any day up to 9 p.m. if they do not create “loud and unreasonable noise” defined in the city’s noise ordinance. Decibel limits effectively prohibit fireworks throughout in Alpharetta and in residential areas in Forsyth County.
In Dunwoody and Roswell fireworks may only be used between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. except on allowable holidays or with a special use permit.
The Johns Creek City Council briefly discussed creating a firework ordinance this November but considering the difficulty of enforcement, opted to focus on public education instead.
Fireworks can be particularly stressful for victims of gun violence or veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or for people with certain cognitive disorders. The loud noise and random timing of the explosions can trigger flashbacks, cause intrusive thoughts of traumatic memories and induce anger or paranoia.
For pets that have an aversion to loud noises, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends keeping animals indoors, playing soft music, giving pets weighted blankets and considering anti-anxiety medication in extreme cases. Ingesting fireworks can poison pets, so ASPCA recommends thoroughly cleaning up the area fireworks were set off before letting your animals have access.
For those who plan to set off fireworks, local fire departments encourage extreme caution. Fireworks should only be used outdoors and in open areas away from homes, structures and other combustible areas. Afterwards, fireworks should be carefully placed in a bucket of water to make sure that they are completely extinguished before disposing.
Some other safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
• Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back up to a safe distance
• Never pick up or try to re-light fireworks that fail to ignite (“duds”).
• Never point or throw fireworks at anyone.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.