Video: Buying and Setting Off Fireworks Legally

Learn what's legal and not with our handy dandy guide!

Fireworks safety rules and laws

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated about 8,800 people for fireworks-related injuries in 2009. Keep these laws in mind during the day’s festivities.

  • The Fairfax County Fire Prevention Code defines permissible fireworks as any sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh's serpents, caps for pistols or pinwheels.
  • The Fairfax County Fire Marshal prohibits fireworks if they explode, emit flames or sparks higher than 16.4 feet or perform as projectiles.  Examples include aerial shells, cherry bombs, roman candles, firecrackers, torpedoes and skyrockets.
  • Individuals possessing such fireworks may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $2,500 fine and/or one year in jail.
  • A permit is required to sell fireworks. Such permits are valid from June 1 to July 15.
  • Permissible fireworks approved by the Fairfax County Fire Marshal should be used only on private property with the property owner’s approval. Permissible fireworks should not be used or ignited inside, under or within 50 feet from any structure.

 To stay safe, follow these guidelines from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department:

  • Place fireworks on a flat surface and away from combustible materials and buildings. 
  • Bystanders should stay at least 25 feet from fireworks.
  • Do not allow young children to hold or light fireworks. Keep children away from sparklers, which can reach temperatures as high as 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Light fireworks individually.
  • Keep fireworks in dry and cool place.

Taylor Branch, a Tri-State Fireworks stand manager, gives the following advice:

  • Fireworks should be clear of bushes and trees.
  • Light fireworks on pavement rather than grass.
  • Read the labels before using all fireworks.


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