New law requires license for fireworks

Thursday, June 23, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:54 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

ST. LOUIS — A new state law could take some sparkle out of Fourth of July celebrations this year.

The law, which passed in the last legislative session, requires anyone who wants to shoot Class B fireworks — the kind that go off after home runs and cap off small-town parades — to get an additional license or to have a licensed operator on site during the display.

Interim state Fire Marshal Randy Cole said he presumed most communities in Missouri would conduct a display on the Fourth of July, but he did not have estimates of how many. More than two-thirds of the fireworks licenses are concentrated in one-fifth of the counties in Missouri, many of them near major cities.

But Cole said the department hopes every fireworks display in the state would have a licensed technician on hand. He said the law was intended to make public shoots safer, citing cases when shooters or bystanders have been injured during shows in Missouri.

The new regulations should not affect firework displays hosted by the Mid-Missouri Mavericks after each Saturday night home-game, Mavericks President Gary Wendt said.

The Mavericks’ fireworks are done by the Kansas City firm Premier Pyrotechniques.

“We have the licenses that are required,” said Pat Seeley, Premier Pyrotechniques’ divisional manager, adding that a licensed technician is always at the park during a display.

“The Mavericks have always been good to go,” Seeley said.

Another factor in forming the law was an illicit indoor fireworks display in 2003 at a show in a Rhode Island nightclub. The resulting fire killed 100 people.

To get the new license, an individual needs to take 12 hours of training sessions, pass a test in Jefferson City, attend three shoots with a licensed Missouri technician and pay a $100 fee. Those who get a license also have to attend eight additional hours of pyrotechnics classes over the next three years.

The new law regulates not only Fourth of July displays but also fireworks at football and baseball games, concerts and theater productions. Shooting Class B fireworks without the license could mean up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The new law does not apply to common fireworks such as bottle rockets or sparklers.

So far, Missouri has granted the new licenses to 631 people. Of those, about 500 live in Missouri.

Explosives expert and University of Missouri-Rolla professor Paul Worsey, who has supervised roughly 30 shoots in the past three years, pointed out that 364 days of the year, technicians likely would be available for any community’s pyrotechnic needs. But on the Fourth of July, there could be a pinch.

The state has 11 inspectors and 18 investigators.

Ryan Shanks, who puts on a private Fourth of July show in Belle each year and has gotten the new license, also questions if the new law is entirely enforceable.

“Will they have somebody running around with a clipboard checking on people on the Fourth of July?” he said.

Missourian staff writer Sara Broderick contributed to this report.

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