Georgians may be used to shooting off many types of fireworks since they were legalized in 2015, but they're now – temporarily – illegal again in many counties, including metro Atlanta.
Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order banning the use of fireworks in much of the state due to the drought, so residents may wonder about potential penalties and other legal specifics concerning fireworks use.
Here's what you need to know:
What does the governor's executive order change?
Until further notice, it's illegal for residents of most of Georgia's counties – including those in metro Atlanta – to shoot off fireworks due to the drought-related danger of more wildfires. The governor's authority to do this comes from the 2016 legislation that set some limits on the use of fireworks in Georgia.
What are the potential penalties?
Penalties aren't determined by the state but are instead left to individual cities and counties to decide, Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, said.
"If we find someone that's lighting off fireworks, we're going to give them a ticket and let the judge determine what the penalties are," DeKalb fire Capt. Eric Jackson said.
If someone starts a fire with illegal fireworks, they can face additional legal penalties. The cause of the fire, as well as the intent of the person who caused it, will be investigated. Jackson said if the fire was accidental, the person would likely be charged with reckless conduct and would appear before a judge who would determine the penalty.
But if there's an intent to start a fire and cause bodily harm or property damage, a charge of arson in the first degree could be made, Jackson said.
In addition, starting a fire by illegally using fireworks could open you up to a lawsuit if the fire causes property damage or physical harm.
How long will the ban last?
The ban on fireworks will last as long as a declaration of drought remains in effect, according to the executive order.
What about New Year's Eve fireworks?
The fireworks legislation allows the governor to issue an executive order to temporarily ban the use of fireworks, but it specifically lists these holidays as an exception, according to Allen:
- Dec. 31
- Jan. 1
- July 3 and 4
While the fireworks ban does not apply to New Year's Eve and Day, consumers can still be held liable if their fireworks start any fires, so extreme caution should be observed.
What types of fireworks are typically legal in Georgia?
A 2015 law legalized many types of consumer fireworks, including bottle rockets, Roman candles, sky rockets, firecrackers, sparklers and more. If you're 18 or older, you can legally buy and use these types of fireworks, but if you're younger than 16, it's illegal for you to possess fireworks. It's also illegal to use them while you're under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Where and when can you set off fireworks when the ban is lifted?
When the governor's executive order is rescinded, it will once again be legal to set off fireworks between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on most days. Exceptions are made for Dec. 31 and July 3 and 4, when fireworks can be set off until 11:59 p.m., and for Jan. 1, when they can be set off until 1 a.m.
These limits can be extended by local municipalities.
There are a few places where it's illegal to set off fireworks, including in a public road, right-of-way or park. You also can't use them within 100 yards of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, nuclear power facilities, electric plants, water treatment facilities or gas stations.
In addition, if you live in a community governed by a homeowners association, you may face additional restrictions or a complete ban.