Email Insights: CFO Jeff Atwater’s exercise in fireworks futility

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In anticipation of July 4, the office of Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater issued what is best described as an example of sheer futility.

Atwater sent what starts as a standard “let’s be safe with fireworks” warning, similar to the hundreds that will flood inboxes through the week.

“Independence Day weekend is a time to celebrate our country’s freedom and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, but we must be smart and remember that fires and serious injuries can be caused by the improper use of fireworks,” Atwater says. “Ensure your friends and family stay safe this Fourth of July by safely and correctly using fireworks.”

Next comes a list of warnings on the safe handling … of sparklers.

All good, nothing more to see here.

However, at the bottom came this strange warning:

“Floridians should not sign ‘waivers’ in order to purchase fireworks. Signing a waiver will not clear a consumer of responsibility if caught illegally using fireworks.” He then provides a list of 2,000 “Florida-approved sparklers” a family can enjoy.

Two-thousand different sparklers?

It is unclear if whoever wrote the email did so with a straight face.

Truth is the only legal fireworks in Florida are “relatively harmless” sparklers, and state law bans powerful devices like bottle rockets.

A loophole in the law permits the sale of explosive devices, as long as consumers sign waivers claiming exemption for specifically agricultural purposes — such as scaring off birds and illuminating sections of railroad tracks.

This wink-and-nod disregard for the law is widespread in Florida — any trip throughout the state this time of year is proof of that.

Of course, as Fire Marshal and state CFO, Atwater cannot — in good conscious — stand idly by as millions of Floridians sign waivers for fireworks. We get that.

But even the Florida Forest Service offers “top 10” tips for fireworks safety, apparently aware that thousands of people across the state will be scaring off wildlife on Friday night.

There must be a helluva lot of geese.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.