FORT MILL -- Ed Tobin has no plans to celebrate his freedom peacefully.
Tobin loaded his full-size pickup truck with a shopping cart full of high-powered fireworks from Big Daddy's Fireworks on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill on Wednesday afternoon. But these rockets won't be used in a professional display at Carowinds or Lake Wylie. They'll light up the night sky above his Fort Mill cul-de-sac.
"My neighbor outdid me last year," said Tobin, noting his sparklers and fountains were diminished last year by mortars and bottle rockets. "I told him I was bringin' it this year."
For many Americans, nothing celebrates freedom quite like explosives flying through the night sky.
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While Class C fireworks, including most bottle rockets, small mortars and firecrackers, are legal in South Carolina, it can still be frightening when out-of-control celebrations send rockets zipping through crowded suburban neighborhoods. It's also a fire hazard when fireworks and debris collide with homes and cars.
That's why area authorities are asking residents to be cautious and courteous.
"Be respectful of your neighbors," York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant pleaded Wednesday. "Shooting fireworks at 2 a.m. is not acceptable."
It likely will be against the law, too. Bryant said county noise ordinances apply to fireworks. And while most police are willing to look the other way if rockets are used respectfully, after 11 p.m. they'll be cracking down.
"Every year, the biggest problem we have is noise," Bryant said.
However, he asks concerned residents to report excessive noise by calling the non-emergency phone line for law enforcement -- not 911.
"We take noise complaints seriously, but that's not a 911 emergency," Bryant said. "We need those lines for real emergencies."
Quieting the ruckus will be a challenge based on the thousands of customers stocking up on fireworks this week. Customers flooded Fort Mill fireworks stores from as far away as Virginia to buy the popular goods that are banned in their home states.
Bryant said there aren't different regulations in York County for neighborhoods -- legal means legal anywhere in the county. Homeowners associations are allowed to implement their own rules, Bryant said. But that's something that hasn't caught on in many places.
"We just ask people to be courteous," said Mike Sexton, president of the neighborhood association in Fort Mill's Regent Park. "We are contemplating a new policy, though."
Good luck enforcing it.
"Gotta have fireworks," said Rick Jackson, who declined to share which neighborhood he lived in, as he loaded a basket full of rockets. "We're gonna have fun."
And if the authorities ask him to tone it down later in the evening?
"I'll offer them a beer," he joked, "and invite them to join us."
FIREWORKS NEED-TO-KNOW INFO
n Only Class C fireworks are legal in South Carolina. Check the packaging. If it’s not clearly labeled Class C, consider another product. The penalty for breaking this law? A $10,000 fine.
n Only individuals 14 and older may purchase fireworks.
n Using fireworks within 600 feet of a church, school or hospital is against the law. Shooting fireworks within 75 feet of a fireworks retailer also is prohibited by state law.
n Shooting fireworks from a moving vehicle or at a vehicle is prohibited.
n Noise ordinances will be enforced after 11 p.m., so firecrackers and other loud devices should be used before it’s too late.
n Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix. Nominate a “designated shooter” for your fireworks display if beer and other alcoholic drinks are part of your plans.
n Children should not be around fireworks unsupervised. Make sure an adult is present at all times.
n Shoot rockets and other displays from a hard, flat surface. Fireworks can tip over on uneven ground, placing spectators in danger.
n Don’t ignite fireworks near homes or buildings, where a stray rocket could cause a fire. Find an open area so any debris falls safely to the ground, not on a neighbor’s roof.
n Fireworks should not be used in overgrown fields or lots. Drought conditions make it especially important to keep grass short and a hose or fire extinguisher nearby to put out small brush fires.
n Light fireworks one at a time. If one appears to be a dud, wait several minutes, then douse it with water before continuing.
n Keep the noise down. When it gets late, take the show to a private area where it won’t bother neighbors, or shut it down completely. Remember, county noise ordinances are strictly enforced after 11 p.m.
n Let neighbors know your plans. Hearing firecrackers explode unexpectedly outside the window can be a shock. Make sure everyone around you knows when and where you’ll be celebrating.
n Clean up your mess. Bottle rockets and similar items leave behind lots of debris. After your show, walk around the neighborhood to make sure all debris is removed from other yards.
n Don’t call 911 for a noise complaint. Authorities stay plenty busy July Fourth and ask that noise complaints be directed to the local police phone number to save the 911 lines for major emergencies.
Sources: York County Sheriff’s Office, Rock Hill Police Department, York County fire marshal and Rock Hill fire marshal