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Chris July 5, 2015

File this post away for next year. Or next week. Whenever you are in the mood for fireworks. No matter what you did this Fourth of July weekend, chances are you saw some fireworks. Some were official public displays put on by towns and cities. Others were let’s just say “unofficial.” Many of the unofficial displays, especially along the Connecticut shoreline, were quite elaborate.

Over the course of the weekend a few people asked whether fireworks were legal in Connecticut. The answer isn’t so clear cut. After years of all fireworks being illegal, sparklers became legal in Connecticut in 2000 and are now widely sold throughout the state. Explosives and all other kinds of fireworks are not.

The following definitions from Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 29-356 are applicable

(1) “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 includes 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 same, firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, Roman candles, Daygo bombs, and any fireworks containing any explosive or flammable compound, or any tablets or other device containing any explosive substance, except that the term “fireworks” shall not include sparklers and fountains and toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns or other devices in which paper caps manufactured in accordance with the regulations of the United States Interstate Commerce Commission or its successor agency for packing and shipping of toy paper caps are used and toy pistol paper caps manufactured as provided therein.

(2) “Sparklers” means a wire or stick coated with pyrotechnic composition that produces a shower of sparks upon ignition.

(3) “Fountain” means any cardboard or heavy paper cone or cylindrical tube containing pyrotechnic mixture that upon ignition produces a shower of colored sparks or smoke. “Fountain” includes, but is not limited to, (A) a spike fountain, which provides a spike for insertion into the ground, (B) a base fountain which has a wooden or plastic base for placing on the ground, or (C) a handle fountain which is a handheld device with a wooden or cardboard handle.

In order to legally possess and shoot off fireworks, one must have a permit from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP, the state police) and operate within the department’s regulations. People who are not properly licensed may not. As Sec. 29-357(a) provides

…no person, firm or corporation shall offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail or use or explode or possess with intent to sell, use or explode any fireworks. A person who is sixteen years of age or older may offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, purchase, use or possess with intent to sell or use sparklers or fountains of not more than one hundred grams of pyrotechnic mixture per item, which are nonexplosive and nonaerial, provided (1) such sparklers and fountains do not contain magnesium, except for magnalium or magnesium-aluminum alloy, (2) such sparklers and fountains containing any chlorate or perchlorate salts do not exceed five grams of composition per item, and (3) when more than one fountain is mounted on a common base, the total pyrotechnic composition does not exceed two hundred grams.

Violation of 29-357 is a class A misdemeanor. If an injury or death results from the violation, it becomes a C felony. It should be noted that other possible charges may become applicable depending on the circumstances, such as Risk of Injury, Reckless Endangerment, Breach of Peace and Disorderly Conduct. Fireworks use that causes injuries or property damage could also lead to civil actions.