With the Fourth of July just a week away, thousands of people are gearing up to watch fireworks light up the sky.
Attending a public display of fireworks is the safest way to celebrate. But if you and your family decide to use personal fireworks instead, make sure you know the dangers and laws for handling them.
Here are the laws in the D.C. area:
In Washington, D.C., some fireworks are permitted to be stored, displayed and sold. Others are illegal, and individuals found in possession of, or using, illegal fireworks can face fines, penalties and/or arrest.
In general, any fireworks or firecrackers that explode -- such as cherry bombs, roman candles, or floral shells -- are illegal.
Retailers must secure a permit from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department and a business license from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) in order to sell any legal fireworks in the District of Columbia.
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In Montgomery County, all fireworks are illegal to possess or discharge, including gold label sparklers. Snap-and-pop noise makers, snakes, and party poppers are the only exception to this law.
Use of the mail for the transportation of fireworks for use in Maryland is illegal. You can't have a private display of fireworks; however, you can have a public display with proper permits and insurance. And it doesn't matter where the fireworks are purchased or how they are brought into Maryland -- fireworks are still illegal.
In Prince George's County, it is illegal for any person to manufacture, possess, store, offer for sale, sell, discharge, use, burn, or explode any fireworks, except that an authorized display may be conducted by a licensed pyrotechnic professional.
In Frederick County, only gold label sparklers, novelty items, and ground-based sparklers are legal. It is illegal to discharge fireworks or possess with the intent to discharge any firework that explodes, rises into the air, moves across the ground or shoots projectiles into the air. Illegal devices include, but are not limited to: firecrackers, roman candles, pop bottle rockets as well as other consumer and commercial shell devices.
In Alexandria, it is unlawful for any person to store, offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, use or explode any fireworks (including sparklers) within the city limits.
In Arlington County, fireworks that are projectiles, explode, emit flames or sparks to a distance greater than twelve (12) feet are prohibited. Individuals in possession of illegal fireworks could face prosecution. For further information, contact the Arlington County Fire Prevention Office at 703-228-4644.
In Fairfax County, any firework that explodes, emits a flame or sparks higher than 16.4 feet, or performs as a projectile is prohibited by the Fairfax County Fire Prevention Code. A permit is required for the sale of all fireworks, and these permits are only valid from June 1 to July 15 of each year.
Permissible fireworks include: sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols, or pinwheels commonly known as whirligigs or spinning jennies.
In Loudoun County, permissible fireworks are those that, according to state and local regulations, do not explode, do not rise into the air, do not travel laterally on the ground or do not fire projectiles into the air. These permissible fireworks include sparklers, fountains, cones and snakes. They are distinguished from other fireworks such as firecrackers, Roman candles, missiles, bottle rockets and shells, which are not allowed in Loudoun County without a permit.
In Prince William County, sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols and pinwheels (commonly known as whirligigs), spinning jennies, or other similar fireworks approved by the Fire Marshal are permissible.
Any such fireworks which explode, emit flame or sparks to a distance greater than 12 feet, rise into the air or travel laterally, or perform as a projectile or fire projectiles other than sparks are prohibited.
Permissible fireworks shall have a hard-coated or slow burning fuse at least 1 1/2 inches long with a burning rate of not less than four (4) seconds. Quick match fuses are prohibited. Such permissible fireworks shall be used only on private property with the approval of the owner of the property.