Fired up for July 4

Locals don’t have to travel far to light up the sky this Fourth of July with new laws

Anything that flies up in the air, sparks and goes boom — that’s what Big Rapids resident John Chadra wanted on Tuesday when he walked into the TNT Fireworks tent in the Meijer parking lot.

ALL ON THE TABLE: Jake Lowing, who operates the TNT Fireworks tent in Big Rapids, said he wouldn’t be surprised to sell more than $5,000 a day next week in the days leading up to Independence Day. (Pioneer photo/Whitney Gronski-Buffa)

“Arsenal batteries, mortars, bottle rockets,” he said. “They all shoot up in the air and they all make noise, and that’s what the kids love.”

Buying loud, airborne fireworks always has been part of Chadra’s annual Fourth of July party preparations. This year, he will be celebrating his independence from making the three-hour drive down Old U.S. 131 to stock up on the types of fireworks that were illegal in Michigan until this year.

“We always went down to Indiana,” Chadra said. “Not even a quarter-mile across the border, there’s a fireworks store. Every year, the place was packed. We always did it weeks beforehand, but now that it’s legal here, we don’t have to make that run.”

Chadra is among the dozens of customers the TNT Fireworks tent has seen since it opened on Sunday, said Grand Rapids resident Jake Lowing, who operates the tent in Big Rapids, as well as a tent in Cadillac.

Since Michigan’s fireworks laws changed, vendors can sell “pretty much everything but M80s,” Lowing said, including bottle rockets, Roman candles, mortar shells, and anything else that flies into the air and explodes.

Lowing’s first three days of business in Big Rapids this year were more profitable than any other seasonal start in the three summers he’s sold fireworks for the Fourth of July. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday — the first three days the tent was open —  Lowing sold about $2,000 worth of fireworks each day. He said he wouldn’t be surprised to sell more than $5,000 a day next week in the days leading up to Independence Day.

“People are coming in, getting some, and then have complete plans to come back and get more closer to July 4,” he said.

With the increase in sales comes the added obligation of warning people about dangers of using heavy-duty fireworks, Lowing said.

“It comes down to being responsible with this stuff,” he said. “If they’re going to be using the mortars, we definitely tell them to bury the mortar tubes so they don’t flip and cause danger when they fire.”

With little chance of rain in the forecast throughout the holiday week, Big Rapids Department of Public Safety deputy director Warren Hansen warns people to be aware of the burn dangers that come with launching fireworks.

“They’re legal in other states and those states haven’t burned down yet,” Hansen joked. “But a lot of times with something new like this, people go overboard and don’t take the precautions that they should. That’s a concern with the dry, hot weather coming up.”

Keeping a hose or fire extinguisher handy while setting off fireworks is the best way to prevent a small accident from becoming a big emergency, Hansen said.

It’s also important to remember that fireworks eventually explode, whether they make it high into the sky or not.

“You don’t want to be too close. Make sure you’re not shooting them at someone,” he said. “Just be aware that whenever those things explode, there will be sparks and fire.”

Some restrictions on where fireworks can be launched still exist. All types of fireworks are prohibited in U.S. National Forests, such as Huron-Manistee National Forest. Campers and visitors of the forests could be subject to up to $5,000 in fines and up to six months in prison if caught in possession of or lighting fireworks in a national forest.

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Posted by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

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