Before the temptation to set off these holiday favorites in your own front yard strikes, it’s important to check a city or county’s firework guidelines and regulations. Lest we forget, violating these laws might result in one hefty fine and even jail time — not the best way to show some American spirit.
In less than two weeks it will be time to bear the summer heat, flaunt that red, white, and blue, gorge on cookout fare, and celebrate America.
With the Fourth of July just around the corner, much of the celebration planning revolves around the very essential and crowd-pleasing fireworks display.
However, before the temptation to set off these holiday favorites in your own front yard strikes, it’s important to check a city or county’s firework guidelines and regulations. Lest we forget, violating these laws might result in one hefty fine and even jail time — not the best way to show some American spirit.
Here are some rules to keep in mind if planning to celebrate in or around Richmond. If you still have questions, be sure to contact the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SMFO) as they are the agency responsible for enforcing these laws, issuing permits, etc.
- According to Lt. Shawn Jones of the Richmond Fire Department, fireworks are illegal in the Metro Richmond area.
- Chesterfield County prohibits all fireworks, including sparklers (sorry, Southsiders).
- Virginia state law prohibits any fireworks that leave the ground. As the SMFO explains it, in localities under their regulation, “The possession, manufacture, storage, sale, handling and use of fireworks are prohibited”, unless a permit is obtained by the SMFO or another local enforcement authority (see below for more on that).
According to the SFMO, their office issues permits for the storage, use, and sale of explosives in areas with no local enforcement. This includes investigation of complaints.
The SFMO issues permits for firework displays at state-owned sites only. Fees are $200 for outdoor and $300 for indoor displays. Whether indoor or outdoor, in the case of identical, multi-day displays, there is an additional $150 for each subsequent day.
Permits are renewed annually at a fee of $150 for all use permits and $100 for storage. Written verification that the applicant is bonded is required to properly obtain a use permit.
In those localities where the SMFO has enforcement authority, a separate application to use explosives is required for each city or county in which the applicant plans or intends to use explosives. If an applicant operates in multiple jurisdictions, multiple applications and permits are required. An application fee of $150 is required for each permit. Photocopies of applications are acceptable.
Permits issued by the SMFO are not applicable in localities enforcing the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code (SFPC). If a locality has a fire official, then the permit has to be obtained from the local official.
Richmond requires a permit be obtained before using any fireworks — yes, even sparklers. An important note: The permit must be obtained 15 days prior to the event and there is a fee of $150. Applicants also must provide Certificate of Insurance covering use of fireworks, listing the City of Richmond as additional insured—minimum $3 million, with insurance company licensed in Virginia.)
In Richmond, if a person is found to be in violation of these laws, they are participating in a class one misdemeanor, which is subject to penalties of up to $2500 for each offence and/or up to one year in jail.
Permit applications are available from the State Fire Marshal’s Office or give them a call at 804-371-0220.