For the first time in more than 60 years, Minnesotans can buy, sell and use fireworks.
On April 29, Gov. Jesse Ventura signed into law a fireworks bill, making it legal to use sparklers and other novelty, ground-based fireworks. Fireworks had been illegal since 1941.
This change to Minnesota law will allow for the year-round, public sale, possession and use of a limited number of consumer fireworks.
Vendors took little time setting up shop in Crow Wing County, with tents and displays found at several convenience stores. Prices range from 25 cents for a single item up to $90 for bigger items and variety packs.
So far, sales have been good, said Mike Calloway, who was working the Snap Fireworks stand Monday at Triangle Store in northeast Brainerd, but the recent heat and wind have put a little damper on sales.
Calloway, however, remains optimistic.
"This is a holiday weekend, so it should be busy," he said, noting it will take a while for Minnesotans to become accustomed to buying fireworks.
Calloway's concern with the heat and wind coincides with fire officials' concerns, though for different reasons. Officials fear the high temperatures and winds, with low humidity, forecasted for the week of the Fourth of July could make it a prime time for wildfires, said DNR Program Forester Mark Mortensen.
For fire officials throughout the state, the legalization was a lost battle, said Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Mahle, noting several firefighting organizations lobbied against making any fireworks legal.
"I vehemently oppose them and from my perspective there isn't any safe use of fireworks unless they're done by professionals," said Mahle, whose department has already investigated eight instances of fires started by fireworks, including one case where they were lighted in a house.
The most notable case of fireworks causing a fire was the May 31 Barrows wildfire that burned 720 acres. It was that scenario that concerned the DNR, said Mortensen.
"We knew there would be some problems," said Mortensen, advising people to be careful during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, which is forecasted to be hot and dry.
State Fire Marshal Division statistics show that in the year 2000, when all fireworks were illegal in Minnesota, 33 fireworks-related injuries took place in the state, along with 36 incidents of property damage totaling almost $48,000 in losses. "Responsibility is going to be the key," said State Fire Marshal Thomas Brace.
There has been some confusion as to what fireworks are legal and what are illegal, said Brace. A simple rule, he noted, is that if it explodes or shoots into the air, it's illegal.
It also is illegal to use fireworks on public property, such as parks, roads, school grounds or government properties. Those who purchase the fireworks must be at least 18 years old, and retailers are required to check a photo identification.
Legal fireworks include sparklers, fountains and strobe lights.
If people are going to use fireworks, Mahle and Brace advised people to find a flat area away from vegetation, keep a water hose running and a bucket of water nearby and be sure children using fireworks are being supervised by an adult.
Better yet, Brace said, take your family and friends and attend a public display put on by professionals.
"Those are the best fireworks anyway," said Brace.
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