Final preparations under way for Siesta’s Fourth festivities

A sign at the entry to Siesta Key Public Beach warns the public that private fireworks are not allowed on the beach or in the park. Photo by Rachel Hackney

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and Sarasota County Government are reminding the public about fireworks safety in advance of the July Fourth holiday.

Deputy Matt Binkley told about 20 members of the Siesta Key Village Association during their regular meeting July 3 that the Sheriff’s Office placed a digital sign at the entry to Siesta Public Beach on June 27, alerting visitors and residents alike to the fact that a county ordinance makes it illegal to shoot off private fireworks on the beach.

Deputies have seized fewer fireworks from the public in recent years, Binkley said, adding that he hoped they would continue to see an improved situation this year.

Although the rains from Tropical Storm Debby last week had created a less hazardous situation from a fire standpoint, Binkley said, fireworks still could harm people enjoying the holiday as well as the endangered birds that nest on the beach.

Extra Sheriff’s Office patrols, including the mounted patrol, will be operating on Siesta Key during the holiday, Binkley said, and the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce has hired off-duty deputies to assist with any security issues that might arise.

SKVA member Dave Magee reported news from Kevin Cooper, executive director of the chamber, that the U.S. Coast Guard will not be opening the two island drawbridges after the chamber’s July Fourth fireworks show ends at the public beach, to facilitate the flow of traffic off the key.

Binkley said the Sheriff’s Office would have someone directing traffic at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, while the Sarasota Police Department would have an officer stationed at the intersection of Siesta Drive and Osprey Road.

In related news, as of July 2, SKVA member Kay Kouvatsos reported, the Siesta Chamber was about $1,000 below its fundraising goal of $35,000 to pay for the fireworks on the beach.

A chamber spokesman told The Sarasota News Leader it is not too late to purchase VIP picnic tickets for the July Fourth festivities. The cost is $150 per couple, which includes the picnic — with beer and wine — a parking pass at the beach and a “front-row view” of the fireworks.

Kouvatsos noted that the picnic this year will kick off with shrimp cocktail, as part of an effort to diversify the menu.

Anyone interested in purchasing tickets must pay for them and pick them up by 5 p.m. today at the chamber office in Davidson Plaza.

For more information on the ticket packages, call the chamber at 349-3800 or visit

Safety on the Fourth

Sarasota County Government has pointed out that in 2010, fireworks caused approximately 15,500 reported fires, resulting in eight reported deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage across the United States.

That same year, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks-related injuries, with 57% of those injuries to the extremities and 37% to the head.

The highest rate of injuries per million people was for children from ages 5 to 14, a county news release says. Almost two-thirds of the injuries were in males, it adds.

County officials point out that Chapter 791 of the Florida Statues makes it illegal to possess the following fireworks for consumer use: firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets and roman candles.

“Sparklers,” as approved by the Florida Fire Marshal’s Office, are legal, the release says. These include snake or glow worms, trick noisemakers, party poppers, snappers and sparklers.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Call Center at 861-5000 or visit