Anyone planning a private fireworks display or even setting off a few firecrackers in Anna Maria and along the beaches July 4 should heed a warning from Sgt. Dave Turner of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation.
“Anything that makes a bang is a fireworks and will be confiscated,” Turner said.
He said state statutes require MCSO deputies to seize fireworks as it is illegal to set off fireworks without a permit. It will be up to the confiscating deputies to determine if the situation also warrants a citation for illegal fireworks, Turner added.
And there will be plenty of deputies on Anna Maria beaches this July 4.
Turner said he would have three extra deputies on patrol that evening, along with his regular complement of deputies.
Additionally, the MCSO may have a tactical area control team searching the beach areas of the city on the lookout for any use of illegal fireworks.
There are usually about eight deputies on a TAC team and they would comb the beach in all-terrain vehicles, Turner said. The decision to use a TAC team is under consideration.
Only fireworks displays that have been licensed and permitted are allowed, Turner said.
Beachgoers with illegal fireworks won’t fare any better in Holmes Beach, and definitely should exercise caution on the roads.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said patrols will be stepped up for the July 4 holiday, with a special emphasis on “impaired and careless driving.”
The chief urged people to “enjoy the holiday, but to do it with safety in mind.”
He also reminded residents and visitors to “be aware of the county fireworks ordinance and understand that officers will be confiscating illegal fireworks.”
Additionally, the chief said anyone traveling to the beach for the fireworks should “avoid leaving valuables” in their vehicles. If beachgoers plan to place valuables in the trunk, Romine recommends he or she do so before arriving at their parking destination on the beach.
Bradenton Beach also is well-prepared for the expected July 4 crowds and illegal fireworks, said Police Chief Sam Speciale.
“We’ll have our normal complement of officers plus all reserve officers on duty July 4,” Speciale said.
In addition, the MCSO will operate a horse patrol along the public beach areas.
The same personnel will be at work the evening of July 3, when the BeachHouse Restaurant holds its annual fireworks display, he added.
He cautioned that anyone thinking of bringing fireworks to the beach or anywhere in the city should think twice.
“We’re going to confiscate illegal fireworks and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand,” Speciale said.
The 19th annual fireworks display at the Sandbar Restaurant July 4 in Anna Maria will begin after dusk and the event has a permit for its pyrotechnical display.
On July 3, the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 S. Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, also will have a permitted fireworks show starting shortly after dark.
The MarVista restaurant on the north end of Longboat Key will hold its fireworks display shortly after dark on July 2.
Island law enforcement officials said the same rules apply to July 3 as July 4, and extra deputies and officers will be available both evenings looking for illegal fireworks.
What’s a legal firework?
Most fireworks are illegal for consumer use in Florida — even if they are available for purchase at stores and roadside stands.
Legal fireworks include sparklers and small fireworks that emit only colored smoke, and glow worms that burn bright colors but do not explode.
Florida law classifies the use of fireworks without a permit as a first-degree misdemeanor, which means those convicted could face up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine and court costs.
A loophole in the law allows customers to buy fireworks if they state they will use the fireworks for lawful purposes, including certain uses in agriculture and mining. In stores, this can be as simple as filling out a form.
But if it explodes, flies or lifts off, the law prohibits you from lighting it for entertainment. That includes the popular Roman candles.
The state fire marshal website has a lengthy list of allowed fireworks, including brand names, at myfloridacfo.com/sfm/sparklerindex.htm.
To report information on an illegal use of fireworks, call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation, 941-708-8899; Bradenton Beach police, 941-778-6311; Holmes Beach police, 941-708-5807.
Regardless of location, in the event of an emergency, call 911.