Since Falls Church resident Josh Vaile was 14 years old, he’s been selling, stocking and setting off fireworks.
The George Mason University student remembers taking trips with his father to South Carolina. Along the way, Vaile’s father would stop at South of the Border and stock up on small fountains and fireworks.
"My dad got me hooked," Vaile said. "I remember those trips to the beach. He’d set them off, show me all the cool fireworks."
When Vaile was 13 years old, he’d spend his weekly allowance on fireworks. During the summer, he would stop by local fireworks stands, ask questions and experiment with sparklers, fountains and fireworks packages.
"I hung around so much, they finally offered me a job," he said.
Vaile began stocking shelves for Tri-state Fireworks Inc., a fireworks warehouse based out of Manassas. Now, Vaile is the manager of a branch in Sterling. He spends May though August, selling fountains and sparklers to Loudoun County residents out of a yellow metal container parked in the middle of Sterling Plaza.
RED, WHITE and yellow containers like Vaile’s are popping around Loudoun County in preparation for the Fourth of July.
"First we had to get a permit from the Fire Marshal’s Office," Vaile said. "We have to adhere to fire codes, have to have two fire extinguishers in the stand, submit a list of fireworks we’re going to sell."
Some fireworks are illegal to possess in Virginia.
Fire Marshal’s Office spokesperson Mary Maguire said any firework that explodes, rises 12 feet or higher into the air, moves across the ground or shoots projectiles into the air is illegal to possess in Virginia. The Fire Marshal’s Office created a list of illegal fireworks so vendors know what they can and cannot sell.
"This list includes firecrackers, Roman candles, pop-bottle rockets and shell devices," Maguire said. "If you’re going to have a small fireworks display at home, we encourage you to purchase from retailers in the county."
The Fire Marshal’s Office inspects stands in the county, to make sure they’re only selling legal fireworks.
"There’s no way of knowing what’s legal and illegal if you buy them out of the area," she said.
Over the holiday weekend, Loudoun County Fire Marshal Keith Brower will be on active patrol, enforcing fireworks safety in neighborhoods and communities.
"There are a number of fireworks commonly available but are illegal to possess in the area," Brower said.
Although it is easy to purchase illegal fireworks in other states, possession and use of items such as firecrackers and Roman candles is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia.
If persons possessing illegal fireworks are convicted, they will face a $2,500 fine and up to one year in jail, Maguire added.
THE FIRE MARHSAL’S Office encourages residents to attend any of the 10 public fireworks display over the holiday weekend.
Brower and his team plan to make two trips to public fireworks displays, to enforce safety there.
"We’ll visit all the public sites during the day and a final inspection before the display," he said.
Brower reminded residents to be prepared, safe and responsible when using fireworks.
"Illegal fireworks can explode, cause significant property damage, blow fingers off," he said. "It’s important to follow all safety precautions."
"The Fire Marshal’s Office will be out in the area to ensure everyone has a safe holiday," Maguire said.