Allows the local fire chief to determine whether or not to keep fire department personnel and equipment at a fireworks display if the local municipality issues a permit for the display. The local fire department may inspect the site of the display.
To own or use fireworks in New Hampshire:
- You must be at least 21 years old. (An exception is made for active-duty armed forces or national guard members, who can use fireworks if aged 18 or older.)
- You must be on your own property to set off fireworks. Otherwise, you must have written permission from the property owner, or the owner must be present. (This includes permission from a landlord, if you’re on a rented property.)
- You can only own or set off consumer fireworks, such as roman candles, wheels, parachutes, sparklers, and aerial spinners. (Learn more about permissible fireworks, and which ones are prohibited.)
- You have to follow any town or city ordinances. View a list of those rules.
Breaking these laws or ordinances can result in a fine for a first offense, or misdemeanor charge for further offenses.
Different rules apply to commercial fireworks, such as bottle rockets, sky rockets, and missiles. These can only be set off by a pyrotechnician with both a license from the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a New Hampshire fireworks certificate. You must also get a state permit for any display of commercial fireworks.
Violating state laws for display or commercial fireworks is a misdemeanor.
History of NH fireworks law
In recent years, most legislative activity has revolved around changes to specific types of fireworks that are or aren’t allowed. For example, in 2017, the Legislature removed a ban on firecrackers. In 2018, they made bottle rockets permissable.
Other types of fireworks that have been debated in New Hampshire in the past include reloadable mortars and toy smoke devices.
Federal fireworks law
Federal laws leave regulation of consumer fireworks up to the states, but have stricter rules for “display” or commercial fireworks. These are regulated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which requires anyone wishing to buy, sell, set off or transfer them to get a federal explosives license.
Power of towns
NH law gives towns and cities the right to set restrictions on selling, owning or using fireworks.
In some towns, fireworks cannot be set off without a permit. Others restrict use after certain hours or to particular days of the year, and a handful prohibit fireworks entirely.
To find out the rules in your town, click here or call your local police department.
Fireworks laws in other states
Other states have different approaches to regulating fireworks. These include
- A complete ban on all consumer fireworks, only allowing licensed pyrotechnicians to buy or use them.
- Only allowing sparklers or novelty fireworks.
- Allowing some types of non-explosive fireworks, such as roman candles, but not aerial fireworks or explosives.
- Restricting the sale and use of fireworks to certain times of year, around July 4th or New Year’s Eve.
For a full list of state laws, see the American Pyrotechnics Association directory.
List of permissible fireworks
There continues to be debate over specific types of fireworks that should be made legal or illegal for private use in New Hampshire. These include reloadable mortars and toy smoke devices, among others.
There have been several attempts in recent years to impose a sales tax on fireworks, with a portion of the proceeds reserved for funding fire standards training and emergency medical services. These moves have all been killed in the House.
Lower age limits
In New Hampshire, only individuals over age 21 can buy or use fireworks, though an exception is made for active duty armed forces or national guard members. However, several other states let children as young as 12 purchase fireworks. There has been no recent attempt to change the age restriction for purchasing fireworks in New Hampshire.
Alcohol and drug use
Some states, such Michigan, ban the use of fireworks by anyone under the influence of alcohol of drugs. New Hampshire law forbids selling fireworks to someone who appears to be under the influence, but doesn’t say anything about whether someone can set off fireworks after drinking. However, some town and city ordinances in the Granite State do ban mixing alcohol and fireworks.
PROS & CONS
“NH should loosen restrictions on fireworks.”
- Adults should have the right to celebrate responsibly with fireworks. Instead of passing laws that restrict everyone’s fun, the state should focus on punishing those who misuse them.
- Banning fireworks would only create a black market where consumers could end up purchasing even larger or more dangerous items than “safe and sane” types available legally today.
- A ban on fireworks would drive police to devote resources to enforcement, when their energy could be better spent cracking down on drugs and violent crime.
- According to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there was no statistically significant increase in fireworks-related injuries between 1999 and 2014 — a period during which many states lifted or eased their restrictions on fireworks. This suggests that tougher fireworks laws don’t actually decrease the risk of injury.
- Fireworks are responsible for starting only 4% of brush, grass and forest fires — only slightly higher than the percent caused by lightning strikes.
“NH should tighten restrictions on fireworks.”
- Fireworks are explosive devices that pose a threat to public safety, causing an average of around 14,000 brush, grass and forest fires each year.
- Fireworks are a frequent cause of injuries, with roughly 12,900 people treated for them in U.S. emergency rooms in 2015.
- The noise of fireworks can frighten children and pets, as well as causing problems for veterans with PTSD. This is particularly true of unplanned displays by untrained private citizens. They can also cause harm and distress to wildlife.
- Fireworks contain harmful chemicals such as barium and cadmium in both their smoke and debris, which pollute the air and water.
- Fireworks displays should be left to trained professionals, who know how to minimize the risks of injury and fire, rather than amateurs.
Repeals the prohibition on the retail sales of bottle rockets, which has been in place since 2004.
Exempts toy smoke devices from the prohibition on the sale or use of smoke bombs.
Legalizes the sale of firecrackers.
Allows licensed fireworks sellers to sell smoke bombs.
Legalizes the sale of firecrackers.
Prohibits the sale or possession of sky lanterns.
Prohibits the retail sale of reloadable aerial shell fireworks.
Transfers regulatory authority over explosives, including fireworks, from the Director of State Police to the Commissioner of Safety.
Should NH loosen restrictions on fireworks?
Rep. Charlie St. Clair has proposed allowing local fire departments to inspect the sites for class B fireworks displays, instead of the state fire inspector. The Legislature will debate that bill this year. Get more details below on this page, then contact your elected officials to share your thoughts.
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