The chief federal law enforcement agency on explosives crimes, suggests leaving fireworks displays to the professionals. ATF Special Agent Valerie J. Goddard called on citizens to practice fireworks safety, ensuring that the July 4th holiday is a celebration and not a tragedy.
How to Recognize Illegal Fireworks
According to Agent Goddard, fireworks considered illegal under federal law include explosive devices with street names like "M80" and "quarter stick." These devices resemble firecrackers but are unstable bombs. Typically, they are cardboard tubes fitted with fuses and packed with explosive materials. Tubes are one to six inches long and a half- inch to an inch or more in diameter. Common colors are red, silver and brown. Prices range approximately $1 each to whatever the traffic will bear. These devices meet no safety standards. The potential for harm with illegal, unregulated explosives rises exponentially, because they are more powerful, and because they meet neither safety nor quality standards. Heat, shock or pressure can trigger accidental detonation.
In an Agency press release, Goddard stressed that ATF regards "counterfeit fireworks" as totally unpredictable. "They can seem innocent, but may go off in your hands and face," she warned.
The manufacture of these illegal fireworks can result in federal felony or misdemeanor charges, as well as time in federal prison. The public is urged to help expose traffickers of these illegal devices by calling the toll-free ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB.
"The American flag, parades, and fireworks are all part of our tradition and celebration of independence during the July 4th holiday," Goddard said. She encourages Americans to enjoy the holiday and the tradition of fireworks activities by letting the professionals put on the displays. "Many local communities are having fireworks displays. Rather than risk the chance of an accident and serious injury to family and friends, just sit back and enjoy the show," she said.
USFA Warns of Fireworks Fire Danger
In addition to the safety risks associated with fireworks, the U.S. Fire Administration reports that an estimated 23,200 fireworks fires in 2002 caused approximately $35 million in property loss and almost 60 percent of those fires occur during the month of July around the Independence Day holiday.
"Fireworks account for a large number of preventable fires and injuries," said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response in a press release. "We're not trying to take the fun out of Independence Day celebrations but parents must use extreme caution in assuring that children are properly supervised in the safe handling of legal fireworks."
"Fireworks are especially injurious to children - even those that are considered relatively safe like sparklers and firecrackers," said U.S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison. "The safest way to enjoy Fourth of July celebrations is by attending public fireworks displays conducted by professional pyrotechnicians."