With the Fourth of July approaching, Minnesota state officials are once again reminding the public that it's still against the law to shoot off most fireworks.
Minnesota Fire Marshal Bruce West said state law is clear: if it explodes or can go airborne, it's prohibited for use by amateurs.
"A bottle rocket - that is illegal in Minnesota. Any missiles that would shoot into the air, Roman candles are illegal in Minnesota," West said. "Mortars and shells, that is an aerial device. That is illegal."
The number of fireworks injuries has remained relatively stable over the last decade. State data show that in the weeks before and after Independence Day, an average of 73 people a year are hurt badly enough to require a hospital visit. West said 40 percent are children and teens.
"Hands and face are the two most common areas for fireworks-related injuries. If it's a dud and somebody looks over the top of something and it seems like it's a dud and it shoots off it could hit you in the face," the fire marshal said.
This was the concern of former Gov. Mark Dayton, when in 2012, he vetoed a measure from the Republican-controlled Legislature that would have eased restrictions on aerial fireworks. In his veto letter, the DFLer noted that fireworks injuries more than doubled after 2002, when Minnesota legalized sparklers and similar ground-based devices.
But federalism makes fireworks enforcement tricky in Minnesota because neighboring states are less restrictive. Most fireworks are legal in North Dakota, and you only have to be 12 years old to buy them. South Dakota allows all consumer pyrotechnics that comply with federal regulations.
Wisconsin allows the sale of aerial fireworks, though state residents have to have a permit to shoot them off.
Sharon Gardas owns Island Fireworks in Hager City, just across the state line from Red Wing.
"Our major clientele is from Minnesota. They buy the ground stuff, but they also buy the aerial stuff. We're not selling it illegally. They can purchase it as long as they transport it out of Wisconsin," Gardas said.
In Iowa, nearly all consumer pyrotechnics were banned for eight decades. That was after two major fires in 1931 and 1936 - likely caused by children with fireworks - wiped out multiple blocks in the northwestern Iowa towns of Spencer and Remsen. But two years ago, state lawmakers ended those restrictions.
Former insurance salesman Tim Petersen - AKA Pyro Pete - opened a fireworks store in Forest City as soon as it was legal.
"I was granted the first license in Iowa when it became legal. My structure is the oldest fireworks store in Iowa technically," Petersen said.
He said around 20 percent of his business comes from north of the state line, and interest is growing.
Iowa limits sales to the weeks around July 4 and New Year's Day, and local municipalities can pass their own fireworks bans. The city councils in Spencer and Remsen, where memories of disaster still linger, did just that as soon as the state law took effect.