Several of Aiken's fireworks stores say business is booming as celebrations for the Fourth of July take on a different form this year. 

Public events are scarce as local events have announced cancellations due to health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Brian Ayers, general manager of Wacky Wayne's on Whiskey Road, believes that won't stop private celebrations from still taking place. 

"I think people are just ready to get out of the house and celebrate," Ayers said. "Since they’ve canceled all the major public fireworks shows, we’re helping them build their own shows."

Wacky Wayne's, along with several other fireworks stores across the state, have continued to open their doors to fireworks patrons. 

Kristine Valandingham, with Rejoice Fellowship Church at 411 East Pine Log Road, said the church has opened its fireworks stand for the past four years. 

This merchandise is flying from the shelves. 

"Our sales have been up this week, a lot more than they have been in the past. Usually, the first week or so is slow, but we’re doing better than we have in the past," Valandingham said. 

Amanda Cook at a stand at Mercy Church, located at 2700 Whiskey Road, shares a similar story as patrons seem to gravitate to larger fireworks packages to fulfill their own celebrations in honor of the nation's independence. 

As celebrations may be moving from public venues to private settings, the Aiken Department of Public Safety is urging the public to celebrate safely and be aware of local ordinances on fireworks. 

City of Aiken code states that it is unlawful to use, fire, shoot, discharge, sell, offer for sale, store, exchange, give away or possess any fireworks within the city, except as specifically authorized. 

However, city codes states "sparklers and firecrackers" are authorized as long as they meet the requirements of not being more than ¼ inch in diameter, not being more than 2 inches long and containing no more than 4 grains of explosive composition.

Capt. Maryanne Burgess with Aiken Public Safety stresses children need to be supervised when handling simple firecrackers and sparklers. 

"They can cause burns to children, and people think that they're relatively harmless; but we've seen some pretty serious injuries just from a sparkler," Burgess said. 

A person who wishes to use fireworks in public displays must first obtain written approval from City Council, according to city codes.

Shooting off fireworks within Aiken city limits without the proper approval is considered a violation of a city ordinance. The punishment for violating a city ordinance could be up to 30 days in jail or a fine of approximately $1,100.

The use of fireworks is legal in Aiken County, but safety is still heavily stressed.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission's June 2020 report documents 12 non-occupational fireworks-related deaths that occurred in 2019. 

On average, 180 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July Fourth holiday, according to the CPSC's website

Public Safety encourages fireworks users to use them away from a home or structure.

Users should also avoid firing near or at someone as it could lead to serious injury.

Public Safety also urges fireworks users to be sure to keep equipment nearby to put out a fire, such as a water hose or fire extinguisher.

The SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare reminds pet owners to keep pets indoors while fireworks are being shot. 

Loud bangs and flashes produced by fireworks can often startle and stress pets, often causing them to run away, Claire Grimes, communications director with the SPCA, said. 

"You want to put them in a room that’s farthest away from where the commotion is going on and making sure they have their food, water, bed and something that has their smell on it," Grimes said. "Just make sure they have a safe space they can go to."

Pet owners are encouraged to update their pet's chip information and collar identification so in the event a pet does run away they can easily be returned. 

Turning on a radio or TV can also help cancel out loud bangs during fireworks shows. 

Grimes also encourages fireworks users to give neighbors with pets a courtesy notice before setting off fireworks so owners can plan accordingly. 

If a fireworks user isn't sure how to operate a certain product, Ayers said all five area locations of Wacky Wayne's can show residents how to properly and safely set off fireworks. 

"We want people to be safe, and we want them to enjoy the show," Ayers said. 

Matthew Enfinger is the crime and courts reporter with the Aiken Standard. Subscribe here to support his content.