9 Investigates

Scaring birds? Signaling trains? Why fireworks are illegal in Florida, except when they’re not

Every year in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, Floridians get very concerned about scaring birds away from their fish hatcheries.

And mining.

And signaling trains.


So much so that thousands of them send sparkling explosives into the sky starting soon after the sun sets.

Unless you’re a licensed professional, every time you purchase fireworks in Florida, you’re asked to sign a waiver saying you'll only use them for one of those three pre-approved reasons.

READ: Report on fireworks-related injuries reveals surprising numbers

After numerous nights of interrupted sleep caused by explosions in the sky following the new year, Channel 9 investigative reporter Christopher Heath decided to find out where those forms go and why fireworks are illegal in Florida – except when they’re not.

Florida's convoluted fireworks laws have been the source of ridicule for years, even by lawmakers.

And Heath found out that the lax enforcement of firework regulation is so pervasive, not even the state agencies in charge know what's going on.

“Basically, by signing this document you are perjuring yourself every time you purchase fireworks, because you are basically saying you are using it for something that nobody actually uses it for,” said State Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral.

READ: Orlando firefighters rescue dog spooked by fireworks from crawl space under home

When you buy fireworks, you attest to using them for only one of the three pre-approved reasons by filling out an “official” form. Heath discovered that it's so official, that not a single state agency bothers to collect them.

Not the Florida Department of Agriculture. Not the State Fire Marshal's Office. Not even the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The state is aware that people exploit the loopholes, and rather than close them, or make fireworks legal, Heath discovered that Florida officials continue to look the other way.

READ: Man severs hand after lighting firework inside car in Deltona, deputies say

Bills have been filed recently to allow fireworks to be legally sold for use on three days: Memorial Day, Independence Day and New Year's Eve, but similar changes have failed in the past.

Something to keep in mind, next time you plan to celebrate the new year, or Fourth of July by scaring birds away from your fish hatchery.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.