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Date of Issue: July 01, 2009

Private fireworks face confiscation, ticket

Individuals thinking about having their own fireworks display this weekend on Anna Maria Island should think twice.

As they did last year, Island law enforcement will patrol the beach, confiscating illegal fireworks and educating offenders. Tickets will be issued only as a last resort, police said.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford, a member of the Island Fireworks Task Force, said the task force has done considerable work educating owners and managers of tourist accommodations to inform guests that fireworks are illegal without a permit.

The task force also has issued a number of public service messages and the portable signs on Cortez Road and the Palma Sola Causeway leading to the Island this weekend will announce that private fireworks on the beach are illegal.

A Manatee County ordinance prohibits the use of fireworks without a permit.

That doesn’t mean the rockets red glare won’t be seen this weekend. Two licensed fireworks displays are planned for the weekend on Anna Maria Island, one on July 3 and one on July 4.

Barford urged the public to respect the law and not shoot off any illegal fireworks.

Two years ago, a man watching the fireworks show in Anna Maria suffered a hand injury when an illegal firecracker exploded just inches from his hand. That same year, a young boy was almost blinded by an exploding firecracker.

After those two incidents, Barford, Island law enforcement and West Manatee Fire Rescue officials formed the task force to educate the public and enforce the law.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Kenney, then head of the Anna Maria substation, said it would take 1,000 officers to stop all illegal activity, but education and the presence of the walking patrols last year drastically reduced the number of illegal fireworks. Thousands of dollars worth of fireworks were collected — and disposed of properly — during the 2008 July 4 weekend by law enforcement.

“If you’re coming to the Island this weekend, we hope everyone has a happy Fourth of July weekend,” said Barford. “Just be safe and don’t bring illegal fireworks.”