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VERIFY: DC Fire and EMS have confiscated thousands of pounds of fireworks. Which ones are illegal?

Fireworks are always a highlight for the 4th of July holiday. But DC Fire and EMS is always on high alert for illegal fireworks, which remain rampant.

WASHINGTON — Crews for DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have been busy. The DC fire marshal told the Verify team that an estimated 2,500 pounds of fireworks have been confiscated so far this year, most of which in the days leading up July 4th. 

The fire marshal estimated that more than 245,000 items have been confiscated by DC authorities. 

According to DC Fire and EMS, improper use of illegal fireworks lead to three structure fires and four vehicle fires in the overnight hours of July 4th, 2021.  

With the holiday behind us, the Verify team is looking into which fireworks are legal, and which are not. 

THE QUESTION

Are fireworks legal in Washington, DC?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Most fireworks are illegal in D.C. – although certain, less dangerous types of fireworks are allowed. More information on the do's and don'ts of fireworks are below. 

WHAT WE FOUND 

On an FAQ page, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) pointed to Article 27 of the DC Code, which outlines the restrictions on fireworks. 

"The manufacture, storage, display, sale, setting off, or discharge of any firework listed below is prohibited in the District of Columbia," it reads. 

According to that FAQ page, restricted items are as follows: 

  • Firecrackers of any kind or description
  • Any firework that explodes, such as cherry bombs, salutes, Roman candles, floral shells, artillery shells
  • Any firework intended to move after the piece is placed and fired; such as bottle rockets, parachutes, buzz bombs, pinwheels, helicopters, jumping jacks
  • Sparklers more than 20 inches (50mm) in length
  • Any firework that contains mercury, arsenic, tetryl, phosphorous, sulphocyanide, magnesium, potassium picrate, gallic acid, chlorate of potash and sugar, or any highly oxidizing agent
  • Any firework having a side fuse, or a fuse inserted at any point along the length of the firework
  • Any firework found by the code official to be dangerous to the safety of persons or property

DC Fire and EMS described the restrictions more succinctly on their FAQ page

"Firecrackers or fireworks that explode," it read. "Such as cherry bombs, salutes, Roman candles, floral shells, and artillery shells."

According to Mitchell Kannry, the DC Fire Marshal, the penalty for using or possessing illegal fireworks is a penalty or fine up to $2,000 or even arrest.

"Fourth of July is typically one of the busier days that we have in the department," said Kannry. "So, we're accustomed to this. It's what we have to deal with every year. It's everything from trash fires, to house fires, to injuries and illnesses."

Generally speaking, Kennry said that legal fireworks are those that do not move, fly in the air, or explode. A full list of legal fireworks can be found here

"They're safer, but no firework is really totally safe," he said. "So we want people even if they're using legal fireworks to be extremely careful with them." 

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