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Fourth of July Fireworks Safety

Stay safe and sane this Fourth of July.

After the picnics and parades, Independence Day festivities often end with a literal bang.

They can also end in disaster because of burn and injuries. The easiest way to avoid injury: Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Find a public fireworks display, bring a blanket and prepare to be dazzled.


All fireworks are prohibited in unincorporated Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.


Just don't sit too close.

"Falling debris can cause eye injuries," said Brett A. Dodd, RN, trauma education, injury prevention, and outreach coordinator at Cedars-Sinai. "If you get something in your eye, avoid rubbing it. Instead, flush your eyes with water. If pain or a foreign body sensation persists, seek medical help."

While all fireworks are prohibited in unincorporated Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles, fireworks for personal use are legal in some cities in Los Angeles County, which means that you may get up close and personal with a neighborhood display. You can find a full list of cities where fireworks are permitted in this LAFD Fireworks FAQ (PDF).

Fireworks are always dangerous, especially if handled carelessly. Any time you're around fireworks, keep these tips in mind.

The Safe and Sane seal

If you live in a place where fireworks are legal, "make sure the fireworks you are using have the Safe and Sane California State Fire Marshal Registration Seal," cautions Dodd. "They should be nonaerial and nonexplosive. Otherwise they are illegal and possibly dangerous. If any of the fireworks come wrapped in brown paper, that's a red flag."

These can be professional-grade or homemade explosives, and they carry a serious risk of injury. The National Safety Council notes that M-series fireworks, including M-80s, are illegal. There is no quality control on these fireworks, so igniting one is truly playing with fire.

All fireworks are dangerous. Safe and Sane fireworks cause 90% of fireworks-related injuries and are illegal in the City of Los Angeles.

Sparklers also carry risks

Sparklers may seems like a safe substitute for fireworks, but don't be fooled.

Dodd explains that children can't always hold sparklers far enough away from their bodies to avoid burns. Sparklers heat up to more than 1,200 degrees and can set loose articles of clothing on fire. The sparks can also land in your eye, so anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.

The injury-prevention group Safe Kids Worldwide suggests glow sticks as a fun alternative to sparklers and other fireworks.

Be prepared for fire

Though fireworks can be a fire hazard, not everyone thinks to have a bucket of water or hose nearby. Those safety measures can put out a fire and come in handy if someone gets burned.

Keep away from children

"Young children shouldn't handle fireworks, period," Dodd says. Sparklers are just one example of potential problems. "Beyond that, we support the safety council's recommendation that older children should only use legal fireworks under close adult supervision—if at all."

Fireworks safety basics: where, when, and how many

Never light fireworks indoors. Sounds obvious, but there are fires every year due to indoor use. Also, never light fireworks in areas prone to burn.

Dodd adds, "Never ignite devices in a container—whether you are inside your home or out."

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department (PDF), fireworks should be lit away from buildings, vehicles, dry grass, and other flammable objects. Light only one device at a time, then maintain a safe distance.

Safely discarding fireworks

Did your nonaerial and nonexplosive (i.e. Safe and Sane) firework fail to ignite? Don't try to relight or handle a dud firework. Soak any unexploded or unused fireworks in water overnight. In the morning, toss the soaked explosives in a plastic bag (so they don't dry out) and discard them with your other trash.

Staying safe and sane

The best way to stay safe and sane on July 4th is to go to one of the 40 public fireworks displays around Los Angeles County (PDF).