Thinking Of Fireworks? Watch Out — It’s Easy To Buy Them Illegally Without Realizing It


Firework dealers are popping up along the sides of roads and in parking lots across Wisconsin.

Although each tent or store sells different products, the purchases may not be entirely legal.

In a parking lot across the street from the mall in Onalaska, tables filled with fireworks sit under a temporary white tent. Worker Matt Nehreng points out his favorite firework, a fountain called, “Totally Berserk.”

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“It has every single color of the rainbow, including the fish and stuff that the kids all love,” says Nehreng. “It has sound and it doesn’t break the bank.”

“Totally Beserk” is also legal. This tent only sells fountains, sparklers, and smoke bombs, the kinds of fireworks that anyone in Wisconsin can buy. But at its parent store in Readstown, people can buy anything from Roman candles to massive mortars. While stores and tents are allowed to sell these fireworks, it’s illegal to possess them.

“Basically a good rule of thumb: If it goes up or blows up, it’s probably illegal,” says Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister.

Meister says the laws are confusing since people can buy fireworks anywhere, including grocery and big box stores. In order to legally buy fireworks that fly or explode, a person must have a permit issued by their mayor, village president, or town chair. Meister says that’s not always clear to people.

“A lot of places will say that they’re issuing a permit as well,” says Meister. “Just getting a permit at a local roadside stand doesn’t mean that you have a valid permit.”

Meister and other law enforcement officials say this week is when they handle the most fireworks-related complaints. They generally enforce the laws after getting calls about noise and debris. Illegally possessing fireworks can carry fines up to $1,000.

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