What Fireworks Are Legal, Status Of NoVA Shows: July 4, 2020

Deb Belt

VIRGINIA — No traditional proms or graduation ceremonies, and canceled or scaled-down weddings: 2020 has been a year of loss and stress thanks to the coronavirus pandemic in Virginia. Safety concerns led to school and business closures, and the cancellation of ritual gatherings like funerals.

While restrictions have eased, summer festivals, concerts and Fourth of July celebrations have been canceled in many communities. DC's mayor has even urged residents to stay home on July 4 to avoid crowds at the planned Salute to America. Many Virginia residents have taken a DIY approach to some things we're missing out on — hosting car parades instead of gathering for birthdays and holidays, or sprucing up their homes and patios.

See Patch's list below of Fourth of July events that are still on and those that have been canceled.

If you want to DIY your own Independence Day fireworks display, be sure to check the law. In Virginia, there are different rules on what you can buy and what you can use based on city or county laws.

Virginia law allows residents to light up sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols, or pinwheels, but localities can ban them entirely. Generally possessing, selling or using illegal fireworks results in a fine up to $2,500 or up to one year in jail, so be careful where you buy fireworks and make sure you can use them.

In some local jurisdictions, the sale and use of fireworks — even sparklers — is prohibited. For instance, residents can purchase certain types of fireworks in Fairfax County and in Arlington County, but not in the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. In Virginia Beach, the city bans sparklers, fireworks displays without permits, and fireworks entirely on the beach.

Here's what you need to know, based on information from each jurisdiction's website (click on each jurisdiction to find more detailed information):

Arlington County
It is legal to sell certain types of fireworks, such a sparklers, in Arlington. However, "projectile type fireworks, fireworks which explode, or fireworks emitting sparks or flames for a distance greater than 12 feet are prohibited. All illegal fireworks shall be confiscated and the person responsible will be charged with violation of County law, maximum $2,500.00 fine and one year in jail."

City of Alexandria
It is illegal for anyone to store, offer or expose for sale, sell at retail or explode any fireworks—including sparklers — within Alexandria's city limits. Violations of the fireworks law are punishable by fines up to $2,500 and up to a year in prison.

City of Falls Church
The use of all fireworks is banned in Falls Church. Additionally, the sale of fireworks, explosives or any explosive materials is prohibited within the City of Falls Church.

City of Fairfax
Any firework that explodes, emits a flame or sparks higher than 12 feet, or performs as a projectile is prohibited under the City of Fairfax fire code. Permits are required for the sale of all fireworks, with those permits remaining valid only from June 1 to July 15 of each year. Certain types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles, can be bought legally in other areas, but are prohibited for possession or use in the City of Fairfax. Bringing unapproved fireworks from other jurisdictions could result in a fine up to $2,500 or up to one year in jail.

Fairfax County/Herndon/Vienna
Use of fireworks is strictly prohibited in Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna with the exception of permissible fireworks on private property. Outdoor fireworks displays and indoor pyrotechnic displays are only permitted when approved by the County Fire Marshal and a Fire Prevention Code Permit is issued.

City of Fredericksburg
Use and sale of fireworks is prohibited without a permit from the Fire Marshal. However, use and sale of sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols and pinwheels commonly known as whirligigs or spinning jennies are allowed.

Loudoun County
Consumer fireworks such as sparklers and ground based fountains, are legal to possess and use on private property. The use of personal fireworks such as sparklers is banned on on public property like parks. Residents can buy legal consumer fireworks from a local business or roadside stand possessing a fireworks retail permit from the Loudoun County Fire Marshal's Office.

City of Manassas
Permissible fireworks such as sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols, or pinwheels commonly known as whirligigs or spinning jennies, are permitted on private property. Fireworks should not be projectiles, explode, and flame or spark to a distance greater than five meters.

City of Manassas Park
Fireworks when such have been approved by the fire marshal include sparklers, fountains, pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols, pinwheels commonly known as whirligigs or spinning jennies, or other similar approved fireworks. Fireworks which emit flame or sparks to a distance greater than 12 feet or perform as a projectile or which, from outward appearances resemble firecrackers, cherry bombs, Roman candles, torpedoes or skyrockets are not allowed.

City of Newport News
It is against the law to own, sell, possess, store, display, use, explode or manufacture pinwheels, sparklers, fountains or Pharaoh's serpents without a permit issued by the fire marshal. A $250 fee is required to obtain a permit.

City of Norfolk
Fireworks, including sparklers, pinwheels, fountains and Pharaoh's serpents are banned without a permit.

Prince William County
Fireworks sold at county-approved fireworks such as sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols and pinwheels (commonly known as whirligigs), spinning jennies or other similar fireworks approved by the Fire Marshal are permissible. Any such fireworks which explode, emits flame or sparks to a distance greater than 12 feet, rises into the air or travels laterally or performs as a projectile or fires projectiles other than sparks are prohibited. Possession or use of unlawful fireworks is punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail.

City of Richmond
The city bans use of fireworks without a permit. Violations of the fireworks law are punishable by fines up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

City of Virginia Beach
Fireworks, including sparklers, are banned without a permit in Virginia Beach. All fireworks shows requesting to shoot on any public beach within the City of Virginia Beach shall be denied. All proposed beach shows shall be moved to a display barge off shore.

Fireworks Shows On And Off In 2020

Tips for Safe Firework Use

The Virginia Department of Forestry shared these tips for safe firework use:

  • Keep a bucket of water nearby in which to place all used fireworks. Have a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby to put out stray sparks.
  • Use fireworks only outdoors in areas like parking lots, driveways, and gravel or dirt areas. Keep away from anything that can burn.
  • Have a designated adult light all fireworks. Do not allow young children to light fireworks. Be sure all unused fireworks, matches and lighters are out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Use eye protection such as safety goggles.
  • Light one at a time, move away quickly and keep at a safe distance until the display is finished.
  • Never throw fireworks and never hold fireworks in your hand.
  • Never re-light a "dud" firework. If a device does not light or fire, an adult should wait at least 15 minutes, approach it carefully, and place it in a bucket of water.
  • Do not use under the influence of alcohol.
  • Clean up all debris when finished. Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them completely in water before putting them in the trash can.

This article originally appeared on the Falls Church Patch