Since Joe Wampler, owner of Best Price Fireworks, opened his first store 17 years ago, the selection of legal fireworks has swelled tremendously, thanks to a change in the law.
At that time, the only fireworks that were considered legal in Indiana were sparklers and fireworks that stayed close to the ground. The rest were considered out-of-state fireworks, and buyers had to sign a waiver, saying they’d take them out of state to set them off.
That changed in 2006 when then-Gov. Mitch Daniels changed the law to make it legal to set off the bigger, brighter fireworks in-state, so long as they were set off on private property and during designated times.
“It’s helped business, but now it’s a two-edged sword because now you have Walmart, Meijer, Menards, and Sam’s Club selling fireworks, although they’re not the same quality you’re going to get from us,” Wampler said.
Looking down the aisles lined with fireworks at Best Price Fireworks, it’s clear customers have a lot of choices when deciding what to buy, from the traditional close-to-the-ground fireworks to the large ones that can be seen at fireworks shows and everything in between. There are firecrackers, which produce a loud boom, bottle rockets that shoot into the air, mortars that go into the air and explode rather largely, and cakes that shoot off anywhere from seven to 228 shots.
According to Wampler, the top three best-sellers are roman candles, a traditional firework that ejects one or more exploding shells; Saturn missiles, which shoot off a number of shots that spiral, whistle, crackle, and bang; and mortars, which are used in aerial displays.
And the two most dangerous fireworks,—metal sparklers and firecrackers, are two of the most well-known.
The reason metal sparklers are so dangerous, Wampler said, is because of how hot the metal burns.
“Metal sparklers burn so hot that some people in the tree-cutting industry and logging industry carry them in their backpacks or survival packs. You can literally cut your leg off with a metal sparkler,” he said.
Wampler only carries one type of metal sparkler, and he said he cautions everyone who buys them. Instead of metal sparklers, he encourages people to purchase wood-burning sparklers. And customers have a brand-new sparkler option this year, as Best Price Fireworks added a unique sparkler called a whirling dervish, which is shaped like a fishing rod and has a bamboo handle attached to six sparklers that dangle from the end of the handle. Once lit, they spin around, burning gold.
Firecrackers, on the other hand, are considered one of the most dangerous types due to misuse. Most of the injuries that come from firecrackers come from the users lighting it in their hands, which Wampler stronger discouraged anyone to do. In the cases where injuries occur, he said the user typically has more than one firecracker in his or her hand, and another accidentally lights from the spark of the firecracker the user intentionally was lighting.
“Almost every person who loses a finger with a firecracker does it by having more than one in their hand. They light this one, throw it. Boom. They don’t know that another one was lit as well. In the transition of lighting this one, the flame hit the other one, and they’re holding it with their fist closed and boom. It just blows your fingers off,” he said. “If you’re going to light one and throw it, which we strongly discourage, never have more than one firecracker in your hand at a time. Period.”
As for other safety tips, Wampler said people should never put their head or any part of their body above a firework to light it or to check on it.
And for people using smaller cakes, Wampler said to always put a block on either side of it. When lit, the cakes tend to bounce up and down and risk tipping over and shooting the fireworks outward. Putting a block on either side will stabilize it and prevent it from toppling over.
“Safety is our number-one priority. Use fireworks responsibly,” he said.
In 2017, more than 230 firework-related injuries were reported to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Indiana fireworks laws:
• Fireworks only can be purchased by those age 18 and older
• Fireworks use is limited to personal property, property of someone who have approved the use of the fireworks, or at a location designated specifically for the use of consumer fireworks
• Fireworks can be set off between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. year round and 9 a.m. to midnight on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and New Year’s Eve
Best Price Fireworks is located at 413 E. Center Road and on S.R. 931 between JC Penney and Buffalo Wild Wings.