Fireworks Tents Lack Safety Inspections

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

It's just two days away from Independence Day, and State Fire Marshal Director Richard Miller said not every fireworks tent has been inspected.

"It's been a big challenge," Miller said.

Miller said that's because he only has about seven inspectors for the entire Lansing area.

"Our goal is to probably have all the tents inspected by Wednesday, so that's the big push for us," Miller said. "That's really huge for us."

The checklist inspectors take with them is also huge - that's if and when they show up. Vendors must comply with everything on the list or face possible penalties.

"The inspector checks for all the safety," Miller said. "He makes sure there are the proper number of exits, make sure there's no vehicles parked [too close], make sure all the electrical is up to code, making sure there's fire extinguishers, making sure their certificate is posted, and making sure it doesn't look like they're selling to minors, because you have to be 18 years old to purchase fireworks in the state."

Tent manager Robert Allen has done all that and more, including posting prominent signs with the age restriction, no smoking signs, and cones near every stake used to hold up the tent; however, after all of this, he still hasn't been visited by an inspector.

"What was frustrating for us is that we went through the hard work, we got the attorneys on board, made the calls to the state to make sure we complied, and then you know, competitors and other people didn't do that same," Allen said.

According to Miller, some of those competitors have been shut down. Law enforcement had to get involved, their merchandise was confiscated, and litigation is currently underway.

"There are people that have bootleg tents and sights set up, we can monitor that as best we can through our complaint department," Miller said.

Allen feels like the state just took on too much too soon.

"I think that it was very overwhelming for the state to be able to monitor so many," Allen said. "So that left us with a big question mark, should we have followed all the rules? And the answer at the end of the day is yes."

Allen oversees multiple tents around the state. Inspectors did make it to one of his in Jackson, and he said they told him it's the best they've seen. He said he's concerned about the inconsistencies with the system.

"As soon as we're all on board together, the cities, the states, and even us who have tents, I think that we'll be able to interpret the rules together, have one understanding, and then it can be safe for not only our community, but for communities that these tents are going in," Allen said.

Miller said they hope to learn from this experience and create a more timely schedule next year.

For now, Miller recommends customers check to see if a vendor is registered with the state before making any purchases.


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