FL fireworks law is weak, rarely enforced

Tampa, Florida -- An entire week after the 4th of July holiday many are still hearing fireworks being set off in their neighborhoods. They can be dangerous and they're illegal across Florida any time of the year.

A Tampa family is learning that the hard way after their home on Ida Street in Tampa burned to the ground Thursday night. Fire investigators say fireworks being set off nearby is likely the cause of the blaze.

Albert Kidd is a neighbor who describes what he heard that night around 9.

"Boom! It wasn't small....It was big, because it was loud."

Then. minutes later, his nephew shot video of the neighbor's home going up in flames. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue says one of the explosives landed in the carport area of the home which started a small fire and that ignited a propane tank.

A woman at a nearby home seemed apologetic but wouldn't say much more. Neighbors tell 10 News that her husband was lighting off the fireworks using a mortar stand in an open field behind the two homes. Setting off fireworks is illegal unless the man had a special permit to do so.

"Well they don't enforce it evidently, because if they did, they'd have come around," Kidd says.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says it does respond to fireworks complaints, but because the laws regarding them are so weak, there's little they can do about it if they don't witness the act themselves. Even if you are caught in the act, it's just a misdemeanor.

Larry McKinnon, a spokesman for the sheriff's office says, "If you want deputies to show up on the scene and be able to arrest somebody immediately, because of something that somebody has said, then you're going to have to change the law."

McKinnon says they do provide people with a "sworn request for prosecution by complainant" form. You must fill it out and then get it to the prosecutor's office. But in recent years, McKinnon says they can't remember a single person willing to follow through.

Meanwhile, back on Ida Street the good news is that no one was hurt or killed in the house fire. But neighbors recognize this does present the opportunity to change the laws so it doesn't happen again and so that law enforcement has the tools to make sure.


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