I’ve always heard fireworks are illegal in Wisconsin. Then why are there so many fireworks stores in this state?

Municipal Law Alert, October 2007

The quick and simple answer to this frequent question: because it is a local enforcement issue. This means that municipalities – cities, villages or towns – have the responsibility to enforce the law on this issue. Some municipalities choose to do so, and others take a “hands off” approach and allow fireworks stores to conduct business within their boundaries. Whether the “hands off” approach is advisable is a question that should be given careful consideration by municipal officials.

The Law: Wisconsin Statute Section 167.10

Recommended reading for those interested in this issue is Wisconsin Statute section 167.10, entitled “Regulation of fireworks.” It is a quick and easy read and will make it clear that fireworks are intended to be a highly regulated commodity in Wisconsin. The term “fireworks” is broadly defined under Wisconsin law to essentially include every item one would commonly think of in regard to that term except sparklers, caps, and toy snakes. This means that firecrackers, bottle rockets, and nearly all of the other explosive items commonly found at fireworks retailers are intended to be included within the strict regulations of section 167.10.

Briefly summarized (readers should consult the statute for specific details), section 167.10 states that no person may use or possess fireworks without a user’s

permit from the mayor, president, or chairperson of the city, village or town in which the use is to occur. The “user’s permit” may only be issued to the following:

  1. a public authority;
  2. a fair association;
  3. an amusement park;
  4. a park board;
  5. a civic organization;
  6. a group of resident or nonresident individuals; and
  7. an agricultural producer for the protection of crops.

The intent behind number “6” above – a “group of resident or nonresident individuals” – was meant to encompass a group holding an organized formal gathering, such as a class reunion, wedding or anniversary party.

The permit must contain the following information:

  1. name and address of the permit holder;
  2. the date on and after which fireworks may be purchased;
  3. the kind and quantity of fireworks which may be purchased;
  4. the date and location of permitted use; and
  5. other special conditions required by local ordinance.

A copy of the fireworks permit must be given to the municipal fire or law enforcement official at least two days before the date of authorized use. The municipal entity is further empowered to require an indemnity bond or proof of liability insurance as part of the permit.

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