Identifying Illegal Fireworks

Photo by PoPville flickr user m01229

MPD’s Fifth District issued a detailed email about fireworks in DC:

Public Safety Approach

The Metropolitan Police Department and DC Fire/EMS will again team together to ensure that inspection, regulation and safety measure are in place concerning the possession, storage and sales of Fireworks within the District of Columbia.

Captain Mark Beach will be the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fifth Police District will be this years coordinator for education, inspection and enforcement. Captain Beach can be reached on 202-698-0118, 202-345-1313 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Members of the Fifth Police District have begun conducting periodic surveillance and inspection of fireworks vending stands located in our community. We will ensure vendors possess proper permits, have No Smoking signs displayed, sell only fireworks manufactured by TNT, and have an employee roster on site.

MPD will also be enforcing existing laws concerning possession and detonation of illegal fireworks by citizens within our neighborhoods. Detonations of illegal fireworks endanger those lighting the device and those in close proximity of the Firework. Once lit and discharged, illegal Fireworks endanger nearby homes and structures, our pets and pose a real risk for our children. Please review and share with others what type of Firework can be possessed and those listed below that are deemed to illegal.

Illegal Fireworks in the District of Columbia and Penalties

In general, any firework or firecracker that explodes is illegal in the District of Columbia. Any person found using or in the possession of illegal fireworks in the District of Columbia could face fines and penalties of up to $2,000 and/or arrest for further prosecution. The Metropolitan Police Department and Fire/EMS seize illegal fireworks products that are discovered within the District and destroy them after 30 days.

Illegal Fireworks Characteristics

• Any fireworks that move.
• Any fireworks that explode.
• Any fireworks that emit a spark or flame greater than 12 feet.
• Any fireworks that have a side mounted fuse or a fuse inserted at any point along the length of the product’s surface.
• Any fireworks that contain mercury, arsenic, magnesium, phosphorus, or any other highly oxidizing agent.
• Any fireworks that the Fire Marshal considers to be dangerous to the safety of any person or property.

Examples of Illegal Fireworks (after the jump.)

• Firecrackers
• Cherry Bombs
• Roman
• Salutes
• Floral Shells
• Artillery Shells
• Helicopters
• Sparklers greater than 20 inches long
• Bottle Rockets
• Parachutes
• Buzz Bombs
• Pinwheels
• Jumping Jacks
• Anything that is similar to these products.

To report the possession, use or sale of illegal fireworks, or any other fireworks related information, contact the DC Fire/EMS Department Fire Prevention Division at (202) 727-1614.

54 Comment

  • [Homer walks up to the counter in a convenience store.]
    Homer: Yeah, um, give me one of those porno magazines, a large box of condoms, a bottle of Old Harper, a box of panty shields… [rapid undertone] and some illegal fireworks… [normal voice] and one of those disposable enemas. You know what, make it two.

    Owner: My apologies sir, but the sale of fireworks is strictly prohibited in this state and is punishable by- [the only other customer in the store walks out the door] follow me.

  • Joe Dirt: So you’re gonna tell me that you don’t have no black cats, no Roman Candles, or screaming mimis?

    Kicking Wing: No.

    Joe Dirt: Oh come on, man. You got no lady fingers, fuzz buttles, snicker bombs, church burners, finger blasters, gut busters, zippity do das, or crap flappers?

    Kicking Wing: No, I don’t.

    Joe Dirt: You’re gonna stand there, ownin’ a fireworks stand, and tell me you don’t have no whistlin’ bungholes, no spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, honkey lighters, hoosker doos, hoosker don’ts, cherry bombs, nipsy daisers, with or without the scooter stick, or one single whistlin’ kitty chaser?

    Kicking Wing: No… because snakes and sparklers are the only ones I like.

    Joe Dirt: Well that might be your problem, it’s not what you like, it’s the consumer.

  • What’s the policy on spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, hooosker dos, hoosker don’ts, nipsy daisers (with or without the scooter stick) or whislin’ kitty chasers?

  • MPD effectively allows the selling and use of sparklers , as long as not waved, and I guess matches? I can’t think of a firework that does not explode. Isn’t that in the name?

  • Allison

    Haha, this brings back my childhood in Texas. My favorites were the little tiny tanks that actually “drove” around when you lit them and shot fire from their little tiny mounted guns.

    • I used to love those tanks as a kid too. They were usually reserved for the late afternoon (we blew crap up most of the day), where we would stage tank battles among numerous tanks and smoke bombs. Inevitably a few of the tanks were duds, would spin in circles or go the wrong way, and become cannon fodder. Good times.

      • Allison

        Our neighborhood was pretty organized– everyone gathered in the nearest cul-de-sac and at night we’d have a competition to see which cul-de-sac could out-do the others. Since all the buildings and trees were so short, you could easily see and tell based on distance/location which cul-de-sac had the best fireworks compared to the others. In recent years due to drought all the fireworks in the county were banned, but just in case stupid neighbors wanted to start a wildfire anyway we used to spend the prior two days dousing our lawn, trees, and roof with water from a sprinkler.

  • And when do they plan on beginning to enforce this law against fireworks?

    People set them off almost every night in the summer it seems. It’s terrifying and nothing is ever done about it. Fireworks are my least favorite part of living in DC by far.

    • +100
      I remember a specific night this past summer that was REALLY bad. After a rough day at work I turned on some jazz, uncorked a nice cab sav, and settled into my favorite chair to read “The Economist” (for work) when World War III started across the street. I don’t think it was the Fourth of July.

    • I live across the street from an elementary school that is used every 4th of July for a massive fireworks party. It terrifies my dog, keeps my kid up, and generally ruins my night. Oh yeah, and they tend to not clean up after themselves. Cops drive past it all the time. So yeah, enforcement would be nice. In the meantime, I’m trying to find a way to be out of town.

      • We have all the same complaints (kids, dog), so the last couple of years we have stayed in a hotel within walking distance of my office, which has a great view of the fireworks on the Mall, and boarded the dog overnight. If you guys can’t completely get away, maybe that’s an option? Some of the hotels in Crystal City probably have a good view, plus you can see them from the Georgetown waterfront. I’ve been surprised at how reasonable the hotel prices have been for just the one night.

      • fireworks ruin your night? Well then DC is not the place to be for 4th of July.

        • Yes, they ruin my night. Litter, explosions outside my door, and rude drunks utilizing an elementary school basketball court as their personal dumping ground ruins my night. It’s also very unfair to the people who have to clean up after them. Exile me to the suburbs if you will, but where I’m from if you’re going to be a disruptive mess you had the courtesy to do it in the middle of nowhere.

          • Do you ever call the cops? If these guys are breaking the law as I suspect they are, you should expect nothing less than a response from MPD.

          • Actually, being exiled in the suburbs won’t do you much good. Fireworks and 4th of July go hand and in hand. Even the smallest suburb has a fireworks show, and DC is the nation’s capital. Do you really expect not to be “inconvenienced” by fireworks in our nation’s capital??

    • Seriously. We have two neighbors across the street whose annual displays pretty much rival the ones down on the Mall. We have called every freaking year for six years in a row to complain about them. MPD shows up, they have a chat, and before the cops are even to the end of the block they have more going off. And they are very much the illegal ones on this list. I wish if MPD were going to send out these kinds of notices they’d actually do what they say they’re going to do.

      I will say this: the first summer or two we lived in CH, we heard or saw fireworks practically nightly beginning around Memorial Day. The last couple of years have been much better.

      So, let the annual debate begin between those who love the fireworks and those who hate them. I’m on record as being one of the latter, so I’ll bow out now.

    • Wow, the totten, you are totally lame. The 4th of July fireworks are quite possibly my favorite part about living in DC. I am not sure where you live exactly, but I would guess that “every night in the summer” is a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t understand how people live in an urban area complain about noise. Isnt this exactly why people move to the suburbs?

      • I find the 4th of July displays thrilling, and the post-4th fireworks just a minor annoyance, but I can understand totten’s concern. It’s fun until someone gets hurt or your house catches on fire. DC has too much density for non-professionals to be setting off fireworks.

  • So, pretty much anything that is fun is illegal. I understand that they are a fire hazard and all….but rules really take all the fun out of the 4th of July. /:

  • I hope they actually do enforce this…last 4th of July because a house at the end of my rear alley (in Petworth) was detonating mortars and other flying exploding fireworks which flew into neighboring yards. I get that people are trying to have a goid time but major exploding fireworks have no place being shot in to dense neighborhoods. When one exploded directly outside my bedroom window I called the cops but they never showed and the “show” lasted another two hours. My dogs were not amused and I was still finding bits of firework in my yard this spring.

    • Allison

      Ugh, yeah having a firework explode directly outside your window (I used to live on the eighth floor–prime firework exploding height) especially when it’s not the Fourth and you aren’t expecting it while you are sleeping is TERRIFYING. Huge flash of light brighter than midday, room-shaking explosion… those freaking kids across the street drove me nuts.

  • Fireworks and litter are my two most hated things about living in DC. Oh, and the occasional random shootings and sexual assaults. ok and maybe the drug dealing too. But mostly litter and fireworks.

  • gotryit

    If I could tell the difference between firecrackers and gunshots, then I’d care a lot less.

  • For Christ’s Sake – guns are practically legal in DC, we have multiple armed robberies and homicides each week. To think that MPD could ever get a handle on the local street crews and their awesome fireworks shows is just plain nuts! Perhaps because they keep out the riff raff.

  • I love random, indigenous, neighborhood-based fireworks displays. The illegal-er, the better. A great part of living in DC and more fun than going down to the Mall. My only regret is that lack of space and pissy neighbors keep me from joining in.

    • Ditto. So long as things aren’t flying into other people’s houses or yards, I’m fine with whatever crap the kids want to blow up or shoot into the air.

      I was annoyed with the fireworks at first, but then I remembered that I don’t live in Chevy Chase or Palisades. Also, blowing stuff up is practically a god given right of an American childhood. Who am I to deny it to other snot-nosed kids? I was once in their shoes.

      To all those complaining about their kids and dogs, please go to move to the suburbs. It’s only a few weeks out of the year, you’ll survive.

      #bourgeoisproblems all up in here.

      • Illegal is illegal. Fireworks are illegal because they are dangerous. Period.
        I don’t care what you want want to call people who understand and respect that. If you don’t want to respect/follow the laws of this city, maybe YOU should be moving to the suburbs where you can blow yourself up in celebration of your American Identity. We won’t miss you.

        P.S. Maybe if you had the opportunity to survive a house fire destroying everything you own and endangering the lives of you and your neighbors, perhaps you would understand the need for protections against fire hazards.

        • Probably a lot more dangerous than fireworks, and yet you probably get in a car everyday or walk on the street everyday.

          is your plan then on banning everything that is dangerous? (uh everything?)

          • This is a ridiculous retort. So ridiculous, in fact, I can’t even believe i’m stooping to respond to it. Alas, sometimes sheer stupidity deserves explanation of the obvious:

            I’m in support of enforcing laws. Driving cars is not illegal. Driving cars under the influence of alcohol is illegal and yes, shockingly enough, i’m against drunk driving. Fireworks are not illegal everywhere, however setting off explosive devices in densely populated areas (such as DC!) is illegal.

    • saf

      Feel free to come over and hang out with us. We shoot off fountains and such, so ours are legal. However, you can see many of the other kind from our front porch.

    • I’m with you, the crazy, unhinged 4th of July is one of the things that makes Columbia Heights great, even though it also scares the shit out of me sometimes.

    • +1 Irving Streete and again, Totten my Mother’s house burned to the ground when she was in college and they lost everything, so I totally sympathise with that. I am not advocating for anything dangerous, but the main complaint I hear from people is about the noise.

  • One of my favorite things about living in Petworth is all the fireworks that go off on 4th July. I understand how this can be annoying for people who have dogs, but I’m still surprised how most people on this blog complains about it while most people on my block enjoys it. Come out to your porches, have a beer and check out the fireworks. You may end up having a great time too.

    • count me in. I had no idea. I’ll take neighborhood fireworks displays over the shitshow that is the national mall any day.

    • Scrillin

      Yeah, it’s like these guys all have super sensitive dogs with PTSD or something. Most dogs I’ve known love fireworks, too.

      Maybe the owners are confusing barking with being upset.

  • How about we just allow the (already occurring) massive free-for-all on July 4 and bust ass aggressively for fireworks on any other night?

    • A fair compromise.

    • +100
      I don’t mind it for one night when the fire department is on high alert and ready to put out house fires when drunken idiots set off fireworks on their roof (true story). But having it happen for months is one of the most annoying things about living in DC. And the litter. I’m with the poster who said fireworks and litter are the things that make me hate DC sometimes.

      • Where are the places in DC that fireworks are going off every night??? you sure, it’s not gun shots?

        • When I lived in SW it was like that. And unfortunately I knew the sound of gunshots well enough to differentiate.

          • well then I feel for you, that would suck. I had no idea that things like that were happening in the city.

      • I hate the litter too. And it’s an on-going thing in neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan. I blame drunkards and illegal immigrants. (I keep finding empty beer bottles in my lawn, or discarded Latino phone cards, empty soda pop bottles, etc). Bastards. They should go home where they’re from and litter the hell out of their own pathetic little country and leave us alone.

  • I’ll pray for a heavy thunderstorm at dusk on July 4, but we’ll take a long weekend in the country, just in case.

    • yeah, because lightning doesn’t cause fires and thunder doesn’t scare dogs/kids

    • Rain on the 4th of July just moves the local illegal fireworks shows to be spread out over several nights.

  • As long as they’re not flying into my house, I actually appreciate the local fireworks shows. Hell, they’re sometimes better than the official one (bonus: I don’t have to leave my house).

    I will admit it did take some getting used to (and one year a kid actually threw a firework under my car as I was pulling out of my parking space…it didn’t go off thankfully). After 11 years here, I look forward to it. Plus you get to play the game of “gun shot or firework” during the summer 😉

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