July 4th Fireworks FAQ: Where to watch, what's illegal, why this year is different

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64091 full

It's no surprise that thousands of people are injured while using consumer fireworks every year. Here's how to make your Fourth of July festivities filled with barbecue and booze instead of injuries and run-ins with the police. 

Q: Where are fireworks legal? 
Q: What does "safe and sane" mean? 
Q: What types of fireworks are illegal?
Q: Are there really more injuries on the Fourth of July?
Q: What happens if I break the law? 
Q: How can I prevent injuries and fires? 
Q. Where can I buy legal fireworks?
Q. Where can I watch a professional fireworks show? (MAP)
Q. How will this year be different with the extreme drought?

Q: Where are fireworks legal? 

A: Below is a list of cities in SoCal that permit the sale and use of state-approved "safe and sane" fireworks. If your city is NOT on this list, any fireworks are illegal for personal use.

Imperial County

  • Brawley
  • Calexico
  • Calipatria
  • Westmorland
  • Winterhaven (unincorporated area)

Los Angeles County

  • Alhambra
  • Artesia
  • Azusa
  • Baldwin Park
  • Bell
  • Bell Gardens
  • Bellflower
  • Carson
  • Commerce
  • Compton
  • Cudahy
  • Downey
  • Duarte
  • El Monte
  • Gardena
  • Hawaiian Gardens
  • Hawthorne
  • Huntington Park
  • Industry
  • Inglewood
  • Irwindale
  • La Mirada
  • La Puente
  • Lakewood
  • Lawndale
  • Lynwood
  • Maywood
  • Montebello
  • Monterey Park
  • Norwalk
  • Palmdale
  • Paramount
  • Pico Rivera
  • Rosemead
  • Santa Fe Springs
  • South El Monte
  • South Gate
  • Temple City
  • Vernon

Orange County

  • Buena Park
  • Costa Mesa
  • Fullerton
  • Garden Grove
  • Santa Ana
  • Stanton
  • Villa Park
  • Westminster
  • Riverside County
  • Blythe
  • Cathedral City
  • Coachella
  • Desert Hot Springs
  • Indio

San Bernardino County

  • Adelanto
  • Barstow
  • Chino
  • Colton
  • Fontana
  • Grand Terrace
  • Rialto
  • San Bernardino

Ventura County

  • Fillmore  

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Q: What does "safe and sane" mean? 

A: "Safe and sane" generally refers to fireworks that do not fly or explode. Fireworks bearing the "safe and sane" logo may be sold from noon June 28 through noon July 6 every year, unless a local ordinance is adopted and is more restrictive, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

Look for the "safe and sane" logo: 

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Q: What types of fireworks are illegal?

A: Illegal fireworks include the following, according to CAL FIRE

  • Sky rockets
  • Bottle rockets
  • Roman candles
  • Aerial shells 
  • Firecrackers 
  • Other types that explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner

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Q: Are there really more injuries on the Fourth of July?

A: The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 240 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the 4th of July holiday. The most common places to be burned are hands and fingers — with sparklers being the biggest offender — according to this CPSC infographic. 

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Q: What happens if I break the law? 

A: The state of California has zero tolerance against illegal fireworks.

A message from CAL FIRE

CAL FIRE says: 

"It is illegal to sell, transport, or use fireworks that do not carry the 'safe and sane' seal, as well as possess or use any fireworks in a community where they are not permitted. If convicted, a violator could be fined up to $50,000 as well as sent to jail for up to one year." 

You can read the law here and here

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Q: How can I prevent injuries and fires? 

A: CAL FIRE  and the State Fire Marshal offer the following precautionary tips (some more obvious than others): 

  • Check that fireworks are allowed in the area of use
  • Make sure the firework has the State Fire Marshal “Safe and Sane” seal
  • Purchase only from legitimate organizations authorized to sell
  • Have a bucket of water, sand or garden hose available at firing site
  • Read all instructions before use
  • Dispose of used fireworks in water
  • Never alter, modify or enhance fireworks
  • Make sure fireworks have proper clearance from flammable materials including dry grass and brush
  • Always have an adult present.
  • Use fireworks outdoors only
  • Light one at a time
  • Keep a safe distance
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person
  • Never experiment with fireworks
  • Never attempt to re-light or “fix” fireworks
  • Do not wear loose fitting clothing
  • Never carry fireworks in your pockets

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Q. Where can I buy legal fireworks?

A. Over 3,000 nonprofit organizations over California will be selling state-approved fireworks. To do this, they have to apply for a sales permit from local fire department, and then partner with the approved firework companies that set up selling stands. According to state law, firework sales are only allowed between noon June 28th to noon July 6th. (Local laws might have a stricter limit on that time period.)

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Q. Where can I watch a professional fireworks show? 

A. A number of professional fireworks shows will be going on around Los Angeles County.


(Sources: L.A. County Fire, L.A. City Fire, various municipalities | View full screen)


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Q. How will this year be different with the extreme drought?

A: Fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires in 2011, reports the National Fire Protection Agency.

The drought has increased that threat. CAL FIRE is urging the public to celebrate 4th of July by attending a professional fireworks display. Additionally, CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott has ordered a ban on open burning throughout the 31 million acres of property protected by CAL FIRE, effective July 1.

Pimlott said in a press release last year

“Even with a temporary cool down and rain in parts of Northern California, our fire activity remains significantly higher than average. With how dry conditions are, if fireworks are used illegally or in an unsafe manner, they can easily spark a fire or cause injuries; the consequences to our communities can be devastating.”

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With contributions from Evie Liu

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