For many people, Independence Day is synonymous with fireworks.

"It's fun to go see them, but it's even more fun to shoot them off yourself," said John Mauldin of Goose Creek.

As a general rule, most consumer-grade fireworks - bottle rockets, mortars, spinners, and so forth - are legal in South Carolina. Large explosives like M-80s and Cherry Bombs are not allowed.

Firecrackers sold to the public can't have more than 50 milligrams of pyrotechnic composition per firecracker, according to the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Some multiple tube devices set off a bunch of fireworks in quick succession, giving them a high whiz-bang quotient.

But while it may be legal to buy them as long as you are at least 16 years old, you can't shoot them off just anywhere.

Fireworks are legal in Hanahan, Goose Creek, Mount Pleasant, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, Summerville, and Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.

In Goose Creek, they are legal five days a year - Fourth of July, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day - and they cannot be sold inside city limits.

But they are not allowed in the City of Charleston and on Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island. Charleston has banned them because they are a fire hazard and a neighborhood nuisance, said Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis. There's no exemption because it's a holiday.

"To those not participating, the sound of fireworks is very startling and disturbing, particularly in the middle of the night," Francis said. "One firework can wake a thousand people in a neighborhood, particularly scaring young children, the elderly, and pets. The sounds are often also confused with gunfire, which causes even more fear. "

Francis also cautions against shooting guns into the air because it can also be dangerous. Bullets can randomly hit people when they come back down.

"People don't wait until the Fourth of July to shoot fireworks," said Cindee Boatwright of West Ashley. "It started in my neighborhood days ago. I think they are just loud and annoying. It scares my dogs. I also think about calling the cops but I never do because I figure they will be over by the time they respond."

Even areas where they are not banned, police departments often are called out for noise complaints and tend mostly to issue warnings, officials said.

Many times, the show is already over when they arrive. Other times, people see the law coming and scatter.

"It's difficult to witness a violation," Goose Creek Police Chief Harvey Becker has said.

People who are found in violation can have their fireworks confiscated and can be issued a citation.