A Charlottesville resident in search of fireworks for July 4, on the one hand, has no problem. A quick Google search will pull up more than a dozen options for buying them in the city. But if that same person sets off those fireworks in the city, they are breaking the law

All fireworks are illegal in the City of Charlottesville. That includes sparklers.

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The city ordinance banning fireworks defines them as: “firecracker, sparkler, roman candle, fire balloon, signal light, squib, rocket, railroad track or other torpedo, skyrocket, flashlight composition, or other substance or object, of whatever form or construction, that contains any explosive or inflammable compound or substance, and which explodes, rises into the air, travels laterally, or fires projectiles into the air to obtain visible or audible pyrotechnic effects.”

You must be a professional to handle anything like that in the city. It is possible to apply to the fire chief for a permit to set off fireworks, but these permits are not for casual pyrotechnic enthusiasts. To be eligible for a local permit, an applicant needs a sponsor to host the event and provide a fire-safe location, to be certified a “pyrotechnician” by the Virginia Fire Marshall’s Office, and receive a federal explosives permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Such permits shall impose such restrictions as, in the opinion of the fire chief, may be necessary to properly safeguard life and property in each case,” according to a city press release.

Charlottesville Tomorrow reached out to the Charlottesville Police Department, Fire Department and City Manager’s Office for more specifics on the city fireworks law, including how many folks are charged for violating this law each year and what the consequences are. None responded to our inquiries.

For those who wish to view legally set off fireworks in Charlottesville, there will be a display at Boar’s Head Resort, open to the public, on July 2 at dusk. You can get details here.

An earlier version of this story mistakenly linked to a previous year’s event.

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Eileen was Charlottesville Tomorrow's democracy reporter from March through August 2023.