Those fireworks you’re hearing at 1 a.m. are not legal in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Fireworks are a tradition on Independence Day, but setting them off in the wee hours of the morning violates state and city ordinances across Indiana.

State law protects Hoosiers’ rights to celebrate the Fourth of July by permitting the personal use of fireworks from 10 a.m. to midnight on July 4. They are also legal under state law from 5 p.m. until two hours after sunset from June 29 to July 3 and from July 5 to July 9. State law allows local communities to establish additional ordinances regulating the hours that fireworks can be used, resulting in slight variations from the state law. Carmel, for example, permits fireworks until midnight from June 29 to July 9, a slight extension to the state’s sunset law that applies to most communities in Indiana.

“Right now with sunset happening at 9:16, if we go from the exact moment the sun sets and we take two hours after that, you have around that two hour window from 9:16 until around 11:16 until it becomes illegal,” said WTHR meteorologist Lindsey Monroe.

Greenwood requires fireworks use to stop two hours after sunset, but allows them within the city limits through July 11 instead of July 9.

What should you do if you hear fireworks beyond the legal times permitted by ordinance? Emergency dispatchers request you do NOT call 911.

“We don’t want them calling 911 for that. They have to call a different number and understand this is our busiest day of the year,” said Maj. Michael Hubbs, commander of Marion County’s 911 Dispatch Center. Hubbs said ordinance complaints in Marion County – including potential noise violations from fireworks, barking dogs or loud music – should be directed to the county’s non-emergency numbers: 311 for cell phone users or 317-327-3811 for those using a landline phone.

Marion County’s 911 call volume increases by roughly 30% on July 4th, with dispatchers handling more than 3,000 emergency calls on Independence Day. Many of the those calls will not come from people reporting life-threatening emergencies, but rather from callers who are upset about the sound of late night fireworks in their neighborhood.

“We will answer that call, we will process that call and get that person the assistance they need. But we have a lot of real emergencies on this day, and the ordinance calls take away resources we need. If we can’t get to those true 911 calls where there’s an emergency, people could frankly die,” Hubbs told WTHR.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department will have extra police officers on duty Wednesday night to handle the city’s downtown fireworks celebration and an influx of 911 calls. The agency says fireworks-related emergencies such as injuries and fires should be reported to 911 as soon as possible, but those who have complaints about fireworks nuisances should think twice about calling 911.

“If you know for sure it’s just a neighbor who won’t stop shooting off fireworks passed the given time, I’d encourage you to call the non-emergency number,” said IMPD spokesman Michael Hewitt. “Yes, it is illegal, and sometimes in a case like that, the visual of an officer at your door can maybe send a message and calm things down for the night … but that doesn’t have to be a call to 911.”

Hewitt said while most Hoosiers are in the mood to celebrate on July 4th and do not mind hearing some fireworks well after dark, tolerance for late-night fireworks tends to dwindle quickly in the days following the holiday. That’s why dispatchers receive lots of fireworks-related complaints after July 4, when many residents do not realize it is still legal to set off fireworks.

“People should know the rules and the regulations in their town. That’s important,” Hewitt said.

Fines for violating fireworks ordinances vary by community – anywhere from a $50 fine in Indianapolis to a $300 fine for repeated violations in Whitestown.

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