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Are Fireworks Allowed in California?

Are Fireworks Allowed in California?

Think Twice Before You Light Up the Sky This 4th of July

The National Fire Protection Association reports that fireworks start an average of 19,500 fires per year, 59% of which were reported as brush, grass, or forest fires. These fires caused an average of five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and an average of $105 million in direct property damage.

That being said, fireworks of any kind are ILLEGAL in Oakland, including “safe and sane” fireworks. If you are caught with any fireworks, you could be fined up to $1,000. If you are found in possession of large amounts of fireworks, you’re looking at $5,000 to $10,000 fines and possible jail time. For context, safe and sane fireworks include anything that doesn’t fly or explode, essentially.

Police and fire departments across the bay area are preparing accordingly. For instance, the Oakland Fire Department (OFD) will be patrolling neighborhoods on July 3rd and 4th to report illegal firework locations, as well as:

  • Deploy extra staff and vehicles at Lake Merritt on July 4th to prepare for large holiday crowds
  • Deploy two additional specialty wildland apparatus on July 4th and additional command staff
  • Deploy additional inspectors on July 3rd to 4th to monitor firework hotspots and report illegal firework activity

Additional efforts by the OFD include setting up collection barrels for residents who want to give up their unused (and illegal) fireworks. These collection stations are located at:

  • Station 1: 1603 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
  • Station 3: 1445 14th Street
  • Station 4: 1235 Internaitoanl Boulevard
  • Station 5: 934 34th Street
  • Station 18: 5008 Bancroft Avenue
  • Station 20: 1401 98th Avenue

“The Bay Area saw a dramatic increase in illegal fireworks activity during this time last year, resulting in over 30 preventable fireworks-related fires in San José alone,” said Robert Sapien Jr., San José Fire Department Fire Chief. “Under current drought conditions, illegal fireworks put the entire community at risk. We’re … urging residents to comply with fireworks bans and encouraging community members to report illegal fireworks activity … to assist the City with taking enforcement actions.”

However, fire departments aren’t the only ones who are looking out for illegal fireworks. To no one’s surprise, police agencies throughout the Bay Area will increase patrols to help identify and deter illegal firework activity. Both fire departments and police departments will be working together to stop illegal firework use in the Bay Area.

Illegal Fireworks in California

Some California cities permit the use of “safe and sane” fireworks, which are defined as any fireworks that do not come within the definition of "dangerous fireworks" or "exempt fireworks.” That being said, dangerous fireworks include fireworks that contain the following:

  • Arsenic sulfide, arsenates, or arsenites
  • Boron
  • Chlorates, except:
    • In a colored smoke mixture in which an equal or greater amount of sodium bicarbonate is included
    • In caps and party poppers
    • In those small items (such as ground spinners) wherein the total powder content does not exceed 4 grams of which not greater than 15% (or 600 milligrams) is potassium, sodium, or barium chlorate
    • Gallates or Gallic acid

Magnesium (magnesium-aluminum alloys, called magnalium, are permitted)

  • Mercury salts
  • Phosphorus (red or white except that red phosphorus is permissible in caps and party poppers)
  • Picrates or picric acid
  • Thiocyanates
  • Titanium, except in particle size greater than 100-mesh
  • Zirconium

"Exempt fireworks" means any special item containing pyrotechnic compositions which the State Fire Marshal has determined to be limited to industrial, commercial, agricultural use, or religious ceremonies when authorized by a permit granted by the authority having jurisdiction.

What Is the Penalty for Illegal Fireworks in California?

California has several laws against the sale, manufacture, use, possession, and advertisement of fireworks for people without a valid license or permit. Since most California residents do not have a valid license or permit, the following fireworks laws may very well apply to you:

  • It is illegal to possess dangerous fireworks without a valid permit.
  • It is illegal to place, throw, discharge or ignite, or fire dangerous fireworks at or near any person or group of persons where there is a likelihood of injury to that person or group of persons.
  • It is illegal to store any fireworks without a valid permit.
  • It is illegal to store, sell, or discharge any type of fireworks in or within 100 feet of a location where gasoline or any other flammable liquids are stored or dispensed.

The penalty for possessing dangerous fireworks without a valid permit is a misdemeanor punishable by $500 to $50,000 depending on the gross weight of the unaltered dangerous firework. All other offenses listed above are misdemeanors punishable by $500 to $1,000 fines and/or up to 1 year in jail.

Arrested? Fight for Your Independence Today.

Ironically, many residents lose their independence on Independence Day by getting arrested for the illegal use of fireworks. The state of California takes these laws so seriously because, as you know, it is a hotspot for wildfires. Given the current drought we are experiencing, the police and fire departments will work tirelessly to help prevent injuries, death, property damage, and wildfires by strengthening their enforcement efforts.

As such, you got caught with illegal fireworks and are facing charges, let us know. Our attorney can defend your rights and fight your charges when you retain our firm today! Contact us at (510) 907-6600 to get started.