Folks buying sparklers to celebrate New Year’s got more than their money’s worth in Fort Mill, as at least four of them started fires.
All four incidents prompted calls to Fort Mill firefighters and police. All were in town limits, where shooting off fireworks is against the law unless they’re part of a professional display. People can receive citations, though none of the police reports over New Year’s mention a citation. No structures were damaged.
A little after 7 p.m. Dec. 31, officers responded to a fire on Culver Drive. Fireworks there set a side lawn on fire, but it was put out by the time firefighters arrived. One neighbor set of fireworks in the street, and blamed a faulty firework for the incident. He told police he lit a small fountain sparkler in the middle of the street, but the sides of it exploded instead of a steady stream of sparks coming through the top. The neighbor whose lawn was damaged didn’t pursue charges.
About an half hour before midnight, brush fire sparked on Hideaway Gulch Road. Fireworks, again, caused the fire. Someone lighting a sparkler for New Year’s watched as the wind blew a spark into a grassy area, igniting the fire. Two neighbors had their lawns burned. Both told police the fire was accidental and neither wanted to pursue charges.
At roughly the same time, officers were patrolling the Massey subdivision for a property check. They saw a yard on fire on Beck Street. A man told police he lit a sparkler in the road for children to watch. Wind carried sparks into three separate yards, starting fires. No structures were damaged. None of the neighbors whose yards were damaged wanted to press charges, and other neighbors out of town couldn’t be reached.
An electrical box cover was damaged, but Comporium told police there was no internal damage.
Just after midnight, police and fire were dispatched to the Massey subdivision after a reported grass fire. The common area between Stan Hope Drive and Callahan Road was on fire when officers arrived. Neighbors controlled the fire using hose pipes and buckets of water until firefighters arrived. A neighbor there told police he lit a sparkler on the sidewalk, but the wind blew it over causing the grass to catch fire. No structures were damaged, and officers weren’t able to contact the builder owning the common area.
Though town code has a lengthy list of firework rules — throwing fireworks from a car is illegal, toy cap guns and road flares aren’t — one of the types allowed by law is “fireworks known as sparklers.” In general, larger fireworks are illegal as are fireworks discharged in crowded areas or where damage results. Most infractions would result in a citation, though the town could charge up to a $500 fine or jail someone for up to 30 days.
Back in August, when a man accidentally lit a portable toilet in fire after setting off fireworks inside it to relieve the smell, Maj. Bryan Zachary said the main rule of thumb is to let professionals handle the fireworks.
“Town ordinance prohibits the discharge of fireworks with the town limits,” Zachary said then, “with the exception of a permitted professional display.”