4th of July Fireworks in Chicago: Local Laws, Displays, and Safety Tips

As you plan your July 4 barbecue, you may be tempted to liven up the festivities with some backyard fireworks. But before you’re tempted to go online or across the border to Wisconsin or Indiana to pick up your favorite pyrotechnics, there are some things to keep in mind to help make your holiday safe and legal.

Leave Fireworks Displays to the Experts

According to Chicago Police, using any fireworks without a proper permit is illegal within city limits. Officials recommend leaving the pyrotechnics to the professionals, saying you’ll get a much better, and much safer, show.

The Navy Pier fourth of July fireworks display is one such option. The most prominent of all the area shows, Navy Pier has fireworks on July 3 and July 4 that are synchronized to music. One option for viewing is atop the 150-foot ferris wheel, which takes guests on a first-come, first-served basis.

Of course, if you don’t want to navigate the crowds downtown, many suburbs also have terrific displays, including Evanston, where the July 4 program kicks off with a 7:30pm twilight concert, followed by 9:15pm fireworks. Other suburbs with fireworks include Streamwood, Glenview, and Skokie, which takes place at Niles West High School and boasts a “3D fireworks” display. Fireworksinillinois.com has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of Cook County fireworks displays.

If you can’t quite make up your mind about which show you’d like to view, consider this trick: Find a spot where you can catch several displays at once. For instance, if you have a friend in the city with a high-rise apartment, you can try viewing skyrockets from all over the area without having to fight the crowds. (We’ve done this from a 10th floor balcony in River North.) Or, try a blanket at Montrose Beach, or further north of Albion, at Hartigan Beach, which should give you a simultaneous view of the Navy Pier and Evanston shows, if you don’t mind sharing the sand with a large crowd.

Be Careful with Home Use

If you’re planning on attending a home grown July 4 celebration, know that home use of fireworks is heavily regulated in Illinois, and for good reason: 115 fireworks injuries were reported in Illinois last year, including second-and third-degree burns and loss of hearing and sight, according to the Illinois State Fire Marshall.

If you live in a suburb, make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them. Some well-known fireworks like bottle rockets and roman candles are outright illegal in Illinois, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshall, which has a list of approved and prohibited consumer fireworks on its website. Additionally, individual municipalities may impose further restrictions on fireworks, so be sure to check with your local government office first.

Whatever you decide, here are five fireworks safety tips from the Consumer Products Safety Commission to keep in mind.

  • Never let young children play with fireworks. Always have adult supervision with any fireworks activities. Even that seemingly tame sparkler we remember as kids burns as hot as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the CPSC.
  • Never pick up fireworks that haven’t ignited fully. You don’t want them to go off while you are relighting them.
  • Soak spent fireworks thoroughly. After fireworks have finished burning, be sure to fully douse them with water before throwing them away, the CPSC says, which can help prevent a trash fire.
  • Keep water handy. The CPSC recommends keeping a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of a fire mishap. You might also want to add a fire extinguisher.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, and then move back. Never put any part of your body over a firework when lighting the fuse, the CPSC says. Don’t hold onto fireworks once they are lit; back up quickly.

Fireworks can be an exciting, festive part of Independence Day celebrations. These fireworks safety tips and reminders help keep the fun in it for everyone.

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