You can be fined a couple hundred bucks and worse, face a six month jail sentence. Even so, selling illegal fireworks continue to be the business of choice for some in Virginia. Those who work to sniff it out say without whistle-blowers it's almost impossible.
For fire inspectors, the two weeks leading up to July 4th are almost like the 12 days of Christmas. Inspectors never really know where to start, but every now and then they uncover the gift that keeps on giving.
"Let's face it, people go to Myrtle Beach, they go to Tennessee and a lot of things that are illegal in Virginia are legal in South Carolina," says Bennie Russell, Franklin County's Fire Marshal.
Today, the game of selling illegal fireworks has changed. Church groups and schools have taken over tent sales. Because they're using it as fundraisers -- their inventory is by the book.
Still, investigators know underground sales continue to be lucrative. Often times they search convenience stores and grocery stores looking for an occasional bottle rocket that someone has discreetly into a pre-packaged fireworks set.
News7 sent in an undercover team to talk to several clerks to see if they would give us access to bottlerockets, and other illegal fireworks that explode in mid-air.
The first stop, a gas station.
Reporter: "Are those the only fireworks you have? Is there anything bigger?"
Clerk: Um I'm not exactly sure."
Without prodding too much, the clerk told us we wouldn't find anything "fantastic".
At another location, the salesman immediately told our reporter what we were looking for wasn't there.
Clerk: "Everything in the State of Virginia has to stay stationary.
Reporter: "Oh really?"
Clerk: "It cannot move."
A few minutes later that same clerk did say where we would be able to get what's referred to as the "good stuff".
Clerk: "You can go up to Pennsylvania and buy bottle rockets from these guys and bring them back. Show your ID up there go in their store they'll give you all the fireworks that you can buy but if you bring them back here they're illegal"
The last major raid in Southwest Virgnia was three years ago. A pottery story on the edge of Route 220 in Franklin County was the front for the operation. Authorities confisicated more than $40,000 dollars worth of illegal fireworks.
Since then fire marshal's in various locatalities from Roanoke City to Southside Virginia say it's been quiet, but they have no plans to let up.