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How to tell if fireworks are legal | State Fire Marshal

Fireworks sold at licensed fireworks stands during the Fourth of July Holiday sales period can only sell legal fireworks known as consumer fireworks.  State Fire Marshal Charles M. Duffy advises “In Washington State, all legal consumer fireworks packed for sale in Washington have to meet seven main requirements.”

  1. Have a Warning Label on the box and on the item.  The Warning Label has two components:

Signal Word

This is designed to attract the user’s attention that the information is important and should be read.  It will contain either “WARNING” or “CAUTION”.

Statement of Hazard

The statement of hazard is designed to warn the user of the specific aspect of the item’s operation that may result in the potential for injury.  A statement of hazard includes statements such as:  FLAMMABLE, SHOOTS FLAMING BALLS WITH REPORTS, SPINS ON GROUND, EMITS SHOWERS OF SPARKS, etc.

  1. Instructions for use/how the item is to be used and necessary safety precautions to be observed.


  1. Conspicuously labeled with the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, distributor, or seller.


  1. Name of the Country of Manufacture.


  1. The United States Department of Transportation designation as "Division 1.4G consumer fireworks" or "Division 1.3G special fireworks."  There is a significant difference between fireworks marked "Division 1.4G consumer fireworks" versus one marked “Division 1.3G special fireworks."  Division 1.3G special fireworks are also referred to as Commercial Grade or Professional Display Fireworks.

There are several differences between a Commercial Display Shell and Consumer Firework Aerial Shell:


  • ·         Size - Typically start at 2” in diameter.  (1 ¾ inch is the maximum size for a consumer firework.)
  • ·         Content - Contains more pyrotechnic material.
  • ·         Color - Wrapped in a solid color paper, usually brown.
  • ·         Displays a safety warnings such as:  “For Outdoor Use Only by Federally Licensed Personnel” and “DANGEROUS: If found, deliver to local Fire or Police Department.”
  • ·         Have a longer fuse or no fuse attached.
  • ·         Possession requires a license from the ATF and/or pyrotechnic license from the State of Washington.


  1. All label wording shall be prominently located, in the English language, and in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with the printed matter on the fireworks device or container.


  1. Packaging - Bright, colorful paper.


Top signs that your fireworks may be illegal:


  1. They weren’t purchased from a licensed fireworks stand.


  1. They aren’t packaged in bright colors and have safety warnings on the packaging.


  1. The packaging doesn’t indicate the country of manufacture.


  1. It’s not wrapped in bright colorful paper, typically wrapped with plain brown paper.


  1. It’s a solid red, silver or brown in color.


  1. It resembles a roll of coins with a fuse coming out the side.


  1. If it looks homemade, i.e., wrapped in electrical tape or fuse isn’t taped down.


  1. The person selling you the fireworks tells you they bought it in another state because of Washington fireworks laws.


Don’t take any chances cautions State Fire Marshal Duffy, “Stay away from high powered illegal explosive devices such as M80’s or homemade devices.  While the 4th of July happens only once a year, these devices can cause a life altering injury that can last you a lifetime.”


Remember the three B’s of Fireworks:

  • Be Prepared!
  • Be Safe!
  • Be Responsible!


If you know where these illegal explosives devices are being sold, manufactured, or possessed; report it to the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Explosives or the local police department on a non-emergency phone number.  Only call 9-1-1 to report emergencies.


The Office of the State Fire Marshal is a Bureau of the Washington State Patrol, providing fire and life safety services to the citizens of Washington State including inspections of state licensed facilities, plan review of school construction projects, licensing of fire sprinkler contractors and pyrotechnic operators, training Washington State’s firefighters, and collecting emergency response data.


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