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Illegal fireworks may not stop. That means they’ll cause more fires.

Three of the four homes that suffered fire damage during the Fourth of July holiday were in Clearwater.
A TNT fireworks sits in the parking lot of a Sam's Club on July 3 in St. Petersburg.
A TNT fireworks sits in the parking lot of a Sam's Club on July 3 in St. Petersburg. [ JONAH HINEBAUGH | Times ]
Published Jul. 8, 2020

After fireworks caused three Clearwater house fires on Fourth of July, city Fire Marshal Jim Warman said that he anticipates that fireworks-related calls for help will continue after the holiday.

It’s a trend that could continue across Tampa Bay. Cities canceled their local fireworks shows due to the pandemic, but the state now allows residents to buy and use fireworks on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Fire officials expect residents will keep shooting off their stockpiles even though fireworks won’t be legal again until the end of the year.

Most firework-related damage seen this past weekend was in Clearwater, which was the scene of three of the four fireworks-related house fires reported in the bay area. Those fires resulted in major structural damage, firefighters said, but no injuries were reported. Clearwater saw an increase in fireworks-related damage overall, Warman said.

Related: Florida lawmakers are poised to legalize fireworks — for these days only
Fireworks light up the sky behind them as Clearwater firefighters tackle a roof fire blamed on fireworks.
Fireworks light up the sky behind them as Clearwater firefighters tackle a roof fire blamed on fireworks. [ Clearwater Fire and Rescue ]

The increased use of fireworks kept Tampa Fire Rescue busy this past holiday weekend. The agency responded to 28 reports of fires from from Saturday through 3 a.m. Sunday, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny. He said firefighters dealt with “a lot more non-structure fires” than usual. St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, Pasco Fire Rescue and Hillsborough Fire Rescue officials did not return requests for comment.

The Clearwater Fire Department did not receive any permit requests for firework displays on Independence Day, Warman said, which is required by city ordinance. A resident who wants to light fireworks outside their home must obtain the $150 permit and $1 million-worth of liability insurance and have a fire inspector visit the site before the show.

No citations for setting off fireworks without a permit were given over the holiday weekend, he said, because it’s difficult to locate the home and identify the person who lit the fireworks after they launch into the air.

Warman reminded residents that they should request a permit to use fireworks and to use water to soak the used fireworks before disposing of them. Two of Clearwater’s house fires were caused by fireworks that were improperly disposed of using garbage cans, he said.

But the city expects residents to continue lighting fireworks without permission.

“People have leftover fireworks and they’re going to use it,” he said.