North Carolina Is Safe and Sane Firework State!

The older you get, the more certain holidays tend to lose the magic that they once held when you were a child. They are still wonderful and special, but they just lack that certain enchantment they did when you were a kid. SPOILER ALERT: There is no Santa Clause! As an adult, I’m  pretty relieved that there is no stranger breaking and entering into my home once a year via the chimney, but there were some growing pains when I first found out. (Some may say I was a little too old when I finally made the realization, but it’s called suspension of disbelief people!)

Thankfully, the 4th of July isn’t one of those holidays. I still get pretty keyed up for the holiday in the weeks leading up to the big day and that yearly fireworks display is still just as awe inspiring to me as when I used to watch similar shows as I was growing up. Maybe more so. In between “oohing and aahing” at the gorgeous colors and intricate designs, when I consider the history and science involved in what I’m watching, it makes the show even more impressive.  After all, firecrackers and fireworks have history dating all the way back to ancient China during the Han Dynasty.  Fireworks have slowly evolved from burning pieces of bamboo to generate a popping sound to become the pyrotechnic displays we are familiar with today. And besides all that, they’re just so cool! The clip below pretty much sums up how I feel each year, from one of my all time favorite movies, a childhood classic, The Sandlot.

Not All Fun And Games

While I love fireworks, like I’m sure most of you do as well, they can in fact be very dangerous,  if not handled properly. I know what you’re all thinking…”YOU’RE KILLING ME SMALLS! YOU’RE KILLING ME!” And I hate to be the bearer of the bad news, but in 2012, about 8,700 people nationwide ended up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries involving legal and illegal fireworks, with 60 percent of those injuries occurring in the month surrounding the July 4th holiday, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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Injuries from sparklers, bottle rockets and small firecrackers made up approximately 1,000 of those emergency room visits. Even sparklers can be dangerous if they aren’t handled properly, as they can reach a temperature of 1800 degrees and can cause third degree burns. According to the Office of the State Fire Marshall, last year in North Carolina, fire departments responded to more than 100 fireworks-related calls with an estimated $300,000 worth of property damage. Yikes! That’s like finding out The Beast ate the baseball you “borrowed” from your dad that was autographed by Babe Ruth.

Around this time of year, it isn’t uncommon to find fireworks and related merchandise in storage lockers. Or you may have found these items throughout the year and held on to them until now, trying to get the best return on investment.  So what should you do with these items if you’ve won them at auction? Is it legal to sell them and how should you responsibly get rid of this merchandise if not?

State Laws Vary

Due to how dangerous fireworks can be if not handled correctly, many states have very strict laws and regulations on the sale and distribution of fireworks and related items. Laws vary state to state, so for the purpose of the blog, I’m going to be discussing the laws in Storage Unit Auction List’s home state of North Carolina. For more information on your state, read up on basic state by state laws or contact your local law enforcement or fire department to find out more about the specific laws in your state.

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North Carolina is classified as a “Safe and Sane” state which means that only fireworks that do not explode are approved for sale. According to the North Carolina Statute 14-414 the sale and use of fireworks in the state are limited to display and consumer fireworks. State laws are fairly strict in regards to the possession of fireworks. The law is zero-tolerance, which means if you are found in violation, you can be issued a ticket and a fine, and can even be found criminally negligible.  Violators of the law face misdemeanor charges punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 and/or imprisonment not to exceed six months.

Legal fireworks in the state include poppers, sparklers, fountains and novelty items that don’t explode, spin, leave the ground or fly through the air.

Illegal items include firecrackers, fireworks that spin on the ground, roman candles, bottle rockets, and any aerial fireworks. Basically, any firework that can take flight is not legal in North Carolina.

Selling, Retailing, Displaying in North Carolina

Applying for and obtaining the proper licensing is essential for legally selling and buying fireworks in North Carolina. Depending on the amount of merchandise you find in your unit, you may decide that you want to sell in a retail setting, or as apply for status as a wholesaler.

The NC state law requires that anyone who wants to sell fireworks has to apply for a license with the tax commissioner.  As of 2010, if you are a wholesale distributor the cost of the license is $1,400. The license for a wholesaler is $400. You must renew any approved license each year.

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Retail sales permits must be obtained at the local level from the municipal clerk. As of 2010, most municipalities in North Carolina require an application and $50 application-processing fee. You will not be able to purchase fireworks from a wholesaler without this retail sales permit. In addition, it is your responsibility to make sure that any wholesaler from whom you purchase fireworks has an approved license

In order to display fireworks in a sales window or shop, you must apply for a display permit at your local fire station. These permits must comply with Chapter 33 of the International Fire Code, which can be obtained from a fire official.

Legal fireworks cannot be purchased by anyone under the age of 18. Therefore, you are required to check the state age identification card for anyone purchasing your fireworks. If you are found selling fireworks to someone underage or if you are a wholesaler who sells to a retailer without proper permits, you will lose your license.

What To Do With Illegal Fireworks in North Carolina

What if the items that you’ve won at auction fall under the category of items that are illegal? I spoke directly with a member of the Asheville Fire Marshall’s department, and these type of items are required to be returned to your local law enforcement. You have the option of returning these to either your local fire or police departments.

What if you find display fireworks and you’d like to hold a show? State law requires that anyone shooting indoor or outdoor fireworks must submit an application to the State Fire Marshal, attend a safety class, and pass an exam. Contact the NCDOI for more details.