Independence Day is closing in quickly, and with it, the return of a holiday tradition.
People all over Southwest Florida flock to areas such as Miromar Outlets in Estero, or the Naples Pier to watch the displays of bright lights, loud flashes, and myriad colors.
Others will replicate it at home.
2014 was the biggest year on record for firework sales, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, with fireworks sales topping $1 billion for the first time. Of that amount, nearly $700 million went to individual consumers. 2015 is expected to eclipse that number. The APA estimates that consumer firework sales alone in 2015 could reach $725 million.
“It’s our Christmas season, if you will,” Julie Heckman, the executive director of the APA told Politico in June.
There’s only one problem: fireworks in many states, including Florida, are illegal.
Florida law has a general guideline on the matter. If it leaves the ground or explodes, it’s against the law.
A loophole allows for the legal sale of fireworks in the state. Fireworks are allowed for agricultural use in the state of Florida, for clearing away birds from agricultural fields or fish hatcheries. Consumers who visit firework stands or stores such as Sky King Fireworks or Phantom Fireworks in Fort Myers, are required to sign a waiver before purchasing that says they will use them in accordance with Florida law.
Thing is, for many local residents who will be setting off fireworks this Fourth of July weekend, the only fish to be found are going to be in deep fryers, and the only fruits to be found in pies.
Local law enforcement says they will be enforcing firework laws over the weekend. On Thursday, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office reminded would be pyrotechnicians that they would be patrolling neighborhoods and responding to calls about firework use, recommending that firework displays be left to the professionals.
“The initial complaint may result in a warning to the offender, but continuing to disturb the peace could result in arrest,” the Collier Sheriff’s Office wrote in a release.
Lee County will also be going after firework users.
“We will respond, investigate, confiscate, or take other appropriate measures when we encounter illegal use of fireworks,” said spokesperson Tiffany Wood.
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