Jennifer Wessel, JD, MPH
Senior Policy Analyst and Data Privacy Officer
Many Arkansans will celebrate Independence Day with fireworks this weekend, but the safest way to celebrate is at a public fireworks show overseen by professionals. Improper use of fireworks is not only illegal in many cases, it’s extremely dangerous.
To be sure, if you decide to attend any public gathering, it is crucial that you follow all COVID-19 guidelines. The nation is still in the midst of a pandemic with the highly contagious Delta variant causing significant illness and hospitalization — with major spikes among younger people and those who remain unvaccinated.
Arkansas law permits the use of fireworks in the state without a special license or permit, but here are few things to know before heading into the holiday weekend.
- Arkansas allows fireworks to be sold to consumers and used from June 20–July 10 and from December 10–January 5 (or sold all-year at permanent physical locations).
- You must be 12 or older to purchase fireworks.
- Fireworks may not be used within 600 feet of a church, hospital, asylum, public school, or within 200 feet of where fireworks are stored or sold.
- You cannot throw fireworks from, into, or at a motor vehicle or at a person.
- It is unlawful to sell fireworks to any person known to be intoxicated or irresponsible.
Make sure that fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them. Municipal ordinances such as the one in Little Rock may further restrict the sale of fireworks or ban the sale or discharge of fireworks completely inside city limits.
If you decide to set off your own backyard show, keep in mind the follow safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for use in professional displays.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
- Never place your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse and back away to a safe distance immediately after lighting.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks finish burning, douse with water to prevent a fire.
At least 18 non-occupational fireworks-related deaths occurred last year, according to a CPSC report. Twelve deaths were the result of firework misuse, one death was associated with an electric match malfunction, and the remaining five incidents were associated with unknown circumstances.
Approximately, 15,600 injuries from fireworks were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2020. Two-thirds of those injuries occurred during a one-month period between June and July. The trend shows an increase of 200 fireworks injuries per year from 2005–2020. An incident that occurred in an area outside of Little Rock on July 4, 2019, deemed a “fireworks war,” highlights the dangers of improper use of fireworks. Multiple people suffered burns and a few people lost fingers.
Be smart, be safe, and save money by skipping personal firework use and attending one of the many professionally operated displays this Fourth of July weekend.