Fireworks legal, but regulated

Many revelers this holiday season will choose to ring in the New Year with a literal bang and head to the beach or their backyards to set off their own fireworks shows. 

While some jurisdictions have strict regulations restricting where individuals can shoot off fireworks, pyrotechnic lovers in the Cayman Islands seem to enjoy a relative freedom as to where personal fireworks are permitted. 

What many might not realize, however, is that there are a number of laws that regulate and restrict where fireworks can be used on the island. 

Those planning to shoot off fireworks in George Town, South Sound, or along Seven Mile Beach, for example, should check in with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands first. 

Fireworks displays – from small domestic events to major commercial or ceremonial displays – can pose a risk to aircraft, particularly when planes are approaching, landing or taking off. 

Individuals planning to shoot fireworks anywhere within three nautical miles of Owen Roberts Airport, or under approach and departure paths, are legally required to coordinate with the aviation authority in order to prevent potential threats to aircraft operations. Fireworks displays outside of those areas, but where the display height is expected to exceed 200 feet above ground level must also be coordinated with the aviation authority. 

According to Alastair Robertson, director of air navigation services regulation at the Civil Aviation Authority, the law does not differentiate between commercial displays or private events. 

Mr. Robertson said the authority has issued approvals to eight events scheduled over the holidays. 

“The onus is on the individual to act responsibly and not to endanger aircraft by causing damage to it, or by distracting the crew.” Mr. Robertson said. 

If the safety of an aircraft is endangered, Mr. Robertson said, the law allows for prosecution and penalties, including a fine or imprisonment depending upon the severity of the incident. The Cayman Islands Penal Code (2013 Revision) also describes what type of trouble individuals shooting fireworks could get into. The code allows a $2,000 fine for anyone who throws or sets fire to any firework “to the danger or annoyance of any passenger or inhabitant in any street.” 

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokesperson Jacqueline Carpenter said the police do not get many complaints about fireworks aside from noise complaints. 

“However, we warn people not to throw fireworks into streets or at cars, homes or each other,” Ms. Carpenter said. “If we do encounter this behavior, these people will be prosecuted.” 

Another law restricting fireworks use is the Towns and Communities Law (1995 Revision), which states that no person should set fire to any firework in any public place, except in accordance with the terms of a permit issued by the chief fire officer. The punishment for anyone who violates this law is a maximum $1,000 fine or imprisonment for six months. 

However, according to Gilbert Rankin, acting deputy of the Cayman Islands Fire Department, only businesses planning large commercial displays, using bigger explosives, need to have a license, and the fire department has to be on standby at those commercial fireworks displays. 

Mr. Rankin said the fire department has no control over smaller, private fireworks use, but urges members of the public to be “cautious of their surroundings,” and make sure that no properties might be in danger. 

“Shooting off on the beach is not a problem for the public,” Mr. Rankin said. 

Individuals complying with the laws should still be vigilant and follow basic safety guidelines, according to the fire department and fireworks retailers. 

David Kirkaldy, owner of fireworks store Fireworks Limited, said that people need to use common sense when picking a location to set off fireworks. 

“Obviously, when you are near a sensitive location such as a seniors residence or hospital or a vet office or stables, one should not be lighting fireworks,” Mr. Kirkaldy said. 

“The danger to others is far too great and ultimately the person who decides to light a product in an unsafe area or manner is liable for any outcome.” 

A man shoots a roman candle firework on Spotts Beach over the holiday weekend. - Photo: Kelsey Jukam
A man shoots a roman candle firework on Spotts Beach over the holiday weekend. – Photo: Kelsey Jukam