Celebrate Independence Day safely

Celebrate Independence Day safely
Fireworks - Kristin Swain | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – For many, no proper Fourth of July celebration is complete without setting off fireworks. However, private displays of bombs bursting in air are illegal on the Island.

Though fireworks can be purchased in Florida, rules regarding their legal use are more complicated.

In April 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 140 into law. The bill allows people 18 and older to buy fireworks to use on three holidays: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day. The previous law required signing a waiver saying the fireworks were for specific agricultural reasons.

While the state law is clear, local cities and counties have their own rules that supersede what the state allows.

Each of the three cities on Anna Maria Island has a slightly different approach to how fireworks violations will be enforced, but setting off fireworks of any kind is forbidden anywhere on the Island, especially the beaches – fireworks can disturb nesting shorebirds, sea turtles and other Island wildlife.

Celebrate Independence Day safely
The sound of fireworks can cause shorebirds such as this Black Skimmer to abandon their nests. – Submitted

Audubon Florida says the bursts of color and noise wreak havoc on coastal birds, especially nesting species. After each fireworks explosion, birds panic and fly from their nests, scattering the chicks and exposing them to predators and heat until their parents return.

It’s also sea turtle nesting season, and both adult and hatchling turtles can easily be disoriented by light, sometimes leading to their deaths.

Here is how officials in the three Island cities approach fireworks:

Anna Maria

The city of Anna Maria is patrolled by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. The department refers to Manatee County Ordinance 04-27, which covers fireworks rules and laws at length and also echoes other area laws that prohibit individuals from lighting any shell that flies in the air or explodes above the ground without a permit. A spokesman did not directly address whether the department recognizes the state bill that legalizes fireworks on July 4.

“Our response to fireworks enforcement has not changed. When deputies respond to complaints involving fireworks, their goal is to obtain voluntary compliance through education,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Randy Warren.

Bradenton Beach

Bradenton Beach police will be enforcing a local ordinance that does not allow fireworks on the three state-designated holidays and will confiscate fireworks from anyone caught setting them off. It’s also possible to be issued a citation, even on July 4.

“The use of fireworks is illegal and they will be confiscated. Depending on

the severity of the amount someone possesses, they can also be fined,” Bradenton Beach Police Lt. Lenard Diaz said. “Nothing that projects up is allowed.”

Holmes Beach

Holmes Beach has a similar approach to enforcement of local laws regarding fireworks in the city. Police Chief Bill Tokajer said most private fireworks displays in the city are illegal and there will be consequences for violators.

“Exploding, launching and projectile fireworks are illegal,” Tokajer said. “We will be handling each report of fireworks depending on what the firework is and how it’s being handled. The fine is up to $500. Also, be sure to closely supervise children while using legal fireworks” such as sparklers.

Officials know some will choose to ignore the law and take their chances. Anyone choosing to do so is strongly encouraged to avoid densely populated areas and beaches.

After a hiatus due to COVID-19, the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria has announced the return of Fourth of July weekend fireworks. The fireworks show begins at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 2 at the Sandbar, and can be viewed free by the public. The VIP event at the restaurant is sold out. not changed. When deputies respond to complaints involving fireworks, their goal is to obtain voluntary compliance through education,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Randy Warren.