Shoot away! | Myrtle Beach, SC

The skyline of the Strand along the coast on the Fourth.

Fireworks on July 4. It’s as American as an apple pie served on a red, white and blue paper plate. But, let’s face it: as with everything, fireworks are best in moderation.

I’m not here to rain down on your 4th of July pyrotechnic parade; I just want to inform my fellow citizens, as well as incoming vacationers, of the laws and dangers (to humans and pets) of store-bought fireworks.

Here is a brief overview of the good information to know:

Age Laws for Purchasing Fireworks: South Carolina state law states that no one under the age of 16 is permitted to purchase fireworks. Parents, keep that in mind too, especially if you’re letting your kids under 16 light a mortar tube of fireworks in the backyard. Even “child-friendly” candles that you give to children carry a potential risk. I met a dad in the waiting room of a Charleston burn unit (see “View From Here” from June/July of last year for more on this experience) who was there because that 10 sparklers that he lit and held tightly for his children and those of the neighbor exploded in his hand.

Laws on the sale, possession and use of fireworks: First, fireworks are prohibited inside the city limits of Myrtle Beach; penalties can result in a fine. This is where the law gets a little fuzzy, as I saw amateur fireworks being shot in all directions on the beach, with leftovers raining down on us. Parts of the beach are marked with fireworks exclusion zone signs to protect the grasses on the dunes, so choose your blast zone carefully if you absolutely must shoot fireworks on the beach (well that we do not recommend it!).

In unincorporated parts of Horry County, shooting fireworks is legal before 11 p.m., when the county’s noise ordinance takes effect. But this can vary by subdivision, so check with your homeowners association before planning any fireworks festivities. In Georgetown County, there are no specific laws against fireworks in the county, but many county beaches are included in “fireworks-free” zones.

Anti-fireworks ordinance: In March 2022, Horry County Council is moving closer to approving a no-fireworks ordinance that would prohibit setting off fireworks in certain areas of the county depending complaints or requests from residents. If fully enacted, the ordinance will not include a ban on hand held candles or small floor fireworks.

Currently, fireworks-free areas in Horry County include areas in Walkers Woods, Briarcliffe Forest, Briarwood, Coastal Villas, Marsh Hills, Myrtle Beach Travel Park and Springmaid Beach. There have also been many requests from Carolina Forest residents. The fact is, again, that these “zones” are marked with signs, which can lead to confusion as to their specific location. Here’s how these areas work:

  • A request is submitted to the Horry County Public Safety Division to protect both private and public property.
  • A public hearing is held and, if approved, the owner or property manager must post at least two signs ($17 each) on the property.
  • Once an application is approved, you cannot set off fireworks within 500 feet of that property.

Penalties for setting off fireworks: It has been reported that on several occasions warnings are given by the police instead of tickets. Violators could face a $50 fine and a civil violation, which is increased over time to a maximum of $200 if not paid. Enforcing the proper use of fireworks, however, can be a challenge. The proof can only be in the damage found at the scene of the shipment or in a crowd at the scene, without catching the real offender in action.

Effects of setting off fireworks: In addition to causing property damage, which could possibly lead to a bushfire, and physical damage from the misuse of fireworks, there are other serious effects. People living near fireworks-prone areas, including veterans with PTSD and pets, are affected by the unpredictable booms. More pets run away on July 4 than any other day of the year because of fireworks. Make sure your dog is microchipped or has ID tags before the holidays, and if possible, keep all pets indoors to mitigate the risk of runaways.

We hope you have a happy, healthy and safe July 14th this year!

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