We're less than three weeks until the 4th of July. Here's what you need to know about buying fireworks in the Tristate area.

The first week of June is usually when you see those big white tents going up. Fireworks are on sale and people start stocking up for their 4th of July celebration.

I think a lot of folks in the Tristates know where to get their stuff, but most people wonder what is and isn't legal to own and what's ok to fire off.

I remember being a kid and you'd hear someone discretely mention "I'm gonna drive through Missouri this weekend and pick up some stuff... they've got all the cool stuff there!"

Then their friend would whisper back something to the effect of "just don't get caught by the police!"

Is this true?

I started researching the topic this week by visiting with Julie Heckman, Executive Director for the American Pyrotechnics Association, or the APA. Not only are they up to date on each states individual laws regarding consumer fireworks, they also exist to help all firework vendors in the nation.

According to Julie, while each state has their specific laws about fireworks, it's typically up to you to know your 'local' enforcement of firing them off. She mentioned Ohio is very liberal when it comes to fireworks usage, while New York is very strict about them this year. Just like I mentioned earlier, she said police there have been busting people carrying in illegal fireworks from places like Maryland.

According to the APA website, people in the state of Iowa are allowed to own most any of the first-class consumer fireworks. There aren't any that are specifically prohibited.

In Wisconsin you can legally have cylinder fountains, cone fountains, sparklers (containing no magnesium, chlorate or perchlorate), snakes containing no mercury and small smoke devices. Firecrackers, wheels, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles aerial salutes and bombs are specifically prohibited.

In Illinois you can have novelty items including snakes or glow worms, smoke devices, trick noisemakers known as 'party poppers', 'booby traps', 'snappers', and sparklers. Handheld fireworks, bottle rockets, firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, chasers, buzz bombs, helicopters, missiles, pin wheels and planes are specifically prohibited. (The state fire marshal maintains a list, updated annually, of approved consumer fireworks.)

So what about the 'local' enforcement of fireworks?

To be fair I called the police stations in Dubuque, Platteville and Galena to ask each spot how they handle people firing off their fireworks.

In Dubuque, it was Lt. Ted McClimon, Public Information Officer for the Dubuque Police Department. I also spoke to Lt. Josh Grabandt from the Platteville Police Department and in Galena I got the Chief of Police, Eric Hefel.

While all three said they won't actively pursue people who are using fireworks, if they receive complaints they will pay you a visit, and issue citations if necessary.

Lt. McClimon said people should remember to be considerate of their neighbors, especially veterans who might be uneasy around loud fireworks. He said you should also think of dogs in your neighborhood that could get spooked very easily.

Lt. Grabandt said it perfectly. "If you draw attention to yourself, we'll give you attention."

So now you know. The police have enough to do and don't want to have to be fun-haters, but they will if you're being a nuisance. We should expect some fireworks around the 4th of July, just don't decide to do your fireworks at 3am in the neighborhood... or you'll probably get a visit from the police.

Have a safe and happy fireworks season.

~Chris Farber

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