Ohio’s fireworks law could change; records show seizures are spotty

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COLUMBUS - Rep. Martin Sweeney calls it the “wild, wild west.” He’s referring to Ohio’s law regarding retail fireworks sales.

While most of the fireworks you can purchase from grocery stores in Ohio simply smoke, fizzle or pop, the 1.4g fireworks, which usually consist of bottle rockets, firecrackers or small mortar shells, can be sold at retail specialty stores in Ohio.

You’re just required to take them out of state within 48 hours.

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Sweeney contends that law is ignored and rarely enforced. And a 10 Investigates’ review of fireworks incident reports from the state fire marshal’s office show illegal fireworks seizures are rare and usually are the result of calls about injuries.

At least 40 fireworks-related incidents have been investigated by the state fire marshal’s office within since 2016, according to a 10 Investigates’ review of data. Of those closed incidents, a handful involved the seizure of illegal fireworks.

In other cases, by the time investigators arrived, evidence had been destroyed or witness didn’t always cooperate.

"It's kind of like the Wild, Wild West, you can buy them, you can transport them but you can't set them off -- my question to everybody is ‘how do you think it's working?’ Everybody says it's not working at all,” Rep. Sweeney told 10 Investigates Tuesday.

Sweeney, along with other House lawmakers like Rep. Bill Sietz, have co-sponsored HB 226 that would change Ohio’s current fireworks law.

Sweeney’s bill would eliminate the provision that purchasers of consumer-grade fireworks must transport those fireworks out of state, it also allows local governments to restrict the dates and times that a person may ignite fireworks.

Geneva Bell was setting up her tent in Goodale Park Tuesday afternoon. She says she comes to watch the professional fireworks every year. But the past three nights she’s been treated to an amateur show in her neighborhood in west Columbus.

“I had to sleep on the couch last night because my dogs were scared (from the noise),” she said.

Bell said it’s clear that others are clearly ignoring Ohio’s current law, the precludes individuals from shooting off certain fireworks.

The bill has passed the House and still under consideration in the Senate.