New fireworks law is softened

Published 1:43 am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Staff Writer

The N.C. General Assembly recently moved to let fireworks operators in the state obtain temporary licenses for their in-the-sky light shows this year.
The one-time exception to a relatively new fireworks law was enacted to ensure communities’ Fourth of July celebrations could proceed on schedule, statewide media have reported.
The new law, approved last year, established a more rigorous set of qualifications for pyrotechnics technicians and workers in their field, in part putting permitting in the hands of the state commissioner of insurance through the state fire marshal’s office and imposing more stringent stipulations that operators and workers get required training and licensing.
A proposal preceding the law was set in motion by an Ocracoke fireworks accident that killed four people last year on July 4.
In addition to fresh requirements for fireworks operators, the law also affected local governments.
As part of the new rules, all 100 of the state’s counties have the option of delegating authority to regulate fireworks displays to towns and cities or retaining that authority for themselves, according to Paul Spruill, Beaufort County manager.
The Beaufort County commissioners have elected to grant the municipal governments of Belhaven and Washington their own regulatory authority over fireworks displays, Spruill related.
The commissioners have to revisit this issue annually because the county can’t extend this authority to municipalities for more than one year, the manager shared.
“It adds a more rigorous process to the regulatory responsibility of issuing these permits,” he stated.
Spruill said he is comfortable that Belhaven and Washington “are both very capable” of regulating public displays sponsored by their governments or private displays sponsored by churches or civic groups within their jurisdictions.
Beaufort County retains regulatory authority everywhere within its borders except Belhaven and Washington, he said.
“It’s not just about the municipal displays, it’s regulating all fireworks displays, both public and private,” Spruill added.
He said the county gets seven or eight permit requests from private organizations every year, including churches that organize their own Independence Day celebrations.