East Lansing fireworks rules: what you can and can't do
Before Erik Altmann first ran for East Lansing City Council in 2011, he said his biggest concern was prioritizing residents’ quality of life after fireworks were legalized in the state of Michigan.
Before an ordinance was adopted by City Council, Altmann said fireworks would be fired late into the night all summer long, erasing any peace of mind — especially near the Fourth of July.
"It felt like we were in a war zone, all summer long," Altmann said. "Nobody could sleep, nobody could have their windows open."
Altmann went before the city and plead for stricter rules, or else it would drive people away from East Lansing, he thought — so when the city listened to Altmann’s complaints, he realized the city had to do what the state wouldn’t. Altmann said the city's responsiveness contributed to his involvement in local government.
“The first thing you got to realize is that this law, the state law, makes absolutely no sense, and so it’s complicated and hard for people to remember,” Altmann said. “Basically the state law says municipalities can ban the use of fireworks on most days of the year except certain holidays, and for each of those holidays the day before and after the holiday, except the municipality can still prohibit the use of fireworks during the night.”
Since then East Lansing has maintained a focus for maintaining that quality of life — according to a release by the city, fireworks are allowed to be discharged on the day preceding, the day of, and the day after certain national holidays, except between the hours of 1 a.m.-8 a.m. Those holidays include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
During those holidays, consumer fireworks such as bottle rockets, firecrackers, roman candles and multiple rocket launchers can be discharged, along with low impact fireworks such as smoke bombs, party poppers, sparklers and fountains. Igniting fireworks outside that window is considered a civil infraction, and could be met with a fine of up to $500.
Further, state law makes it illegal to discharge fireworks while intoxicated or while on public property, and any property damage caused by the use of fireworks can be met with a $5,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
“If I set off a firework in my front yard or my backyard, if I set off a bottle rocket or one of those mortars and a piece of that firework comes down on my neighbor's house then that’s jail time and that’s up to a $5,000 fine,” Altmann said.
Despite the stiff penalties, East Lansing Police Lt. Steve Gonzalez the department will very rarely hand out a citation for anybody lighting off fireworks. Rather, a responding officer will likely ask anybody involved to consider the annoyance and how the situation could affect any neighbors.
Gonzalez said the department hasn’t issued a single citation for discharging fireworks dating back to January 2016.
“If we go on a fireworks call (it’s) very seldom, unless it’s outside the three days fireworks are allowed, very seldom will we take any enforcement action on the city’s noise ordinance which (is) closely related to the fireworks ordinance,” Gonzalez said. “We usually take kind of an educational role with someone who may be lighting off fireworks and say, ‘hey look, one of your neighbors called us, they were concerned with a safety issue or they have little kids and they’re trying to get the kids to bed,’ and we have found that approach is a lot more successful than the officer going out and saying, ‘here’s your ticket,’ and we’re done.”
Gonzalez said the city’s population during the summer is significantly lower compared to when MSU fall or spring classes are in session, meaning patrol staff isn’t overwhelmed — even during the Fourth of July season.
Gonzalez emphasized that ELPD wants to focus on safety awareness and quality of life concerns rather than handing out citations during the Fourth of July and other holidays like it.
“If you’re going to light fireworks, let's make sure we’re going to do it in a safe manner,” Gonzalez said. “You can’t go to private property, you can’t go to a church parking lot that may be closed to light your fireworks off, you have to do it on your own property.”
Vendors in the area also share the sentiment that safety comes first. Anjee Jackson, manager of Phantom Fireworks in Lansing, stressed the importance of making sure customers are well-informed about the products they’re purchasing.
Large vendors like Phantom Fireworks even have online guides to go over safety protocols for fireworks novices. Though many municipalities in the areas have strict rules on what kind of fireworks can be discharged, Jackson said their business is always booming.
“I don’t think it hurts us at all,” Jackson said. "I think basically our main objective is to educate people with firework knowledge and that’s the biggest thing, making sure people are well-informed.”