Although the use and sale of consumer fireworks have been legal in Georgia since 2015, some Georgians may still find themselves crossing state lines to purchase the real deal.
However, local residents may not have to drive that far. There are no licensed dealers yet selling “real” fireworks in Bulloch County, but there is one licensed vendor in Candler County who says he is selling the recently legalized types.
In Bulloch County, only two locations have sought licenses to sell fireworks from the state Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, according to information from Glenn Allen, media relations director for the office.
One of those locations is Statesboro’s Wal-Mart Supercenter No. 754, which will sell only the types of sparklers and similar non-explosive devices that have always been legal in the state, not the kind of fireworks that were legalized last year. Store managers said this was a corporate, not a local, decision.
A second location, according to Allen, is to be at 430 Northside Drive E. However, no contact information for that vendor was available, and as of Friday, the city of Statesboro had not had anyone apply for a license to sell any type of fireworks at that address, said Teresa Skinner, city tax clerk.
Still, to purchase the newly legal fireworks, area residents need not plan a trip across state lines, because Wiregrass Junction in Candler County has them, said owner Holt Mosley.
The Chevron station/truck stop on Interstate 16 at Exit 98 is stocking the firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars that last year became legal to buy and sell in Georgia, he said.
“These are what we have been going out of state for” in the past, he said.
Mosely hopes the fireworks sales will be an added draw to his business, which also features a petting zoo with emus, bison, zebu, water buffalo and more, he said.
Getting a license to sell fireworks isn’t cheap. Allen said licenses cost $1,500 before June 1, with an annual renewal fee of $1,000; the fee jumps drastically after June 1 to $5,000 — the price Mosely said he paid for his. License owners must also show $2 million in insurance coverage, Allen said.
According to Allen’s figures, shown at www.oci.ga.gov, there are only 683 licensed fireworks dealers in the state. Many are Wal-Mart stores and other retailers that offer the tamer types classified as sparklers, which do not fly into the air and explode.
Allen said one reason there may not be more retailers selling the more powerful, explosive fireworks is because the law just came into effect in July 2015.
“The law is really new,” he said. “This is only the second year (fireworks have been legal for the Independence Day holiday), and (business owners) have to decide whether to venture out.”
Only three other counties near Bulloch were listed by the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner as having licensed fireworks dealers: Kroger and Publix in Bryan County, and Wal-Mart stores in Effingham and Emanuel counties. The website did not indicate whether the fireworks offered are the explosive ones or the sparkler type.
While the fireworks law passed in 2015 outlines the times at which they may be set off, newly proposed bills in both the state House of Representatives and Senate may bring about modifications, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (www.ajc.com). Currently, they may be set off until midnight, with special exceptions on New Year’s Eve and July Fourth, when they may be lit until 2 a.m.
Also, under the state’s American Heritage Celebration Act, Georgians must be at least 18 years old to purchase fireworks, and fireworks enthusiasts are not allowed to light fireworks within 100 yards of a nuclear power plant or gasoline station and are liable for any damage they cause.
The proposed bills in the Senate and House add water treatment plants and public landing areas for helicopters to the list of prohibited areas, and other sites, including parks, would require special-use permits. The bills would also make it illegal to use fireworks while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.