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Public warned of illegal fireworks' dangers

June 10, 2009|By ASHLEY REID

HAGERSTOWN -- With Independence Day less than a month away, Hagerstown Fire Department Fire Safety Education Officer Michael Weller talked Wednesday about which fireworks are legal and which aren't in Maryland.

"Ground-based fireworks are the only legal fireworks that can be used in the State of Maryland," Weller said during a press conference.

Weller said anyone caught with illegal fireworks in Hagerstown would face a fine of $250 for each piece of fireworks, as well as other penalties.

"Discharging of fireworks can result in criminal charges and a fine," Fire Marshal Doug Dehaven said. "Criminal charges must appear in court and judges can cite you $250 per piece."

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All fireworks vendors in Maryland are inspected to ensure that only legal products are being sold. Weller advised buyers to not purchase fireworks from any seller who is unaware of Maryland laws.

Those wishing to purchase fireworks can get a hint of their legality by reading their labels, Weller said.

"Most of the illegal ones will say 'warning,' the legal ones will say 'caution,'" he said.

Officials respond to calls every year on July 4 regarding illegal fireworks activity and possible injuries.

"In the city around the holiday season, we always confiscate around 6,000 to 10,000 pieces each year," Dehaven said. He said most of those cases involve individuals, not sellers.

Weller asked residents to help authorities keep an eye out for illegal fireworks.

"All residents are to call 911 for any suspicion of illegal firework activity," Weller said

Weller also wanted residents to know that in two weeks, vendors will begin selling fireworks, and fire marshals will be on patrol and strictly enforcing Maryland laws.

"It is the responsibility of the buyer to know their laws so you won't be fined," he said.

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