ATF Warns of Illegal Fireworks and More

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Nashville Field Division reminds the public, whether attending community fireworks displays or celebrating with backyard fireworks, to exercise caution when dealing with fireworks.

As the federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing federal explosives laws, ATF actively works with other federal agencies, such as the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), through its fireworks enforcement program, to prevent trafficking of fireworks and illegal explosive devices which are commonly known as M-80s, M-100s, quarter sticks, cherry bombs and silver salutes. While these items are sometimes referred to incorrectly as fireworks, they are not lawful for use by consumers.

"Each year injuries or deaths are caused by misuse of fireworks or by handling illegal explosive devices," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson. "ATF encourages the celebration of our great country's Independence, but please keep yourself and your family safe by being an informed consumer."

Illegal explosive devices fail to meet safety or quality standards of legally manufactured consumer fireworks. Friction, heat, or impact can cause these devices to unintentionally explode. The illegal manufacture, sale, transfer, receipt or transportation of explosive devices can result in federal felony and misdemeanor charges.

State and local fireworks laws and regulations differ from city to city. Before purchasing or using any fireworks, check with the authorities in your areas to find out what is allowed.

How can you know the difference? Consumer fireworks, unless restricted by state or local laws, are fireworks that can be sold to the public. Consumer fireworks cannot contain more than 50 milligrams (ground devices) or 130 milligrams (aerial devices) of flash powder. In addition, the aerial shells cannot exceed 1 3⁄4 inch. Consumer fireworks generally have colorful packaging and appealing names. Fireworks that exceed these limits are classified as display fireworks and require anyone importing, manufacturing, dealing in, or otherwise receiving display fireworks have an ATF license or permit.

Legal fireworks are marked with brightly colored and decorated paper and include a trade name and manufacturing information. Illegal explosive devices - commonly referred to as M-80s, quarter sticks, or cherry bombs - often come in plain brown or white wrappers with no identifying marks. Illegal explosive devices meet neither safety nor quality standards, and are extremely dangerous even when not being used. These devices can be highly unstable due to heat, shock, or pressure that can trigger accidental detonation.

ATF would like to remind the public that illegal or improperly used fireworks can cause severe injuries or even death.

ATF recommends the following safety practices when using consumer fireworks:

• Consumer fireworks should be clearly marked and come with instructions for safe use - always read and follow the directions on the label.
• Store fireworks in a cool, dry place not accessible to children and avoid rough handling.
• Always have an adult present when handling fireworks and never give fireworks to young children, even sparklers.
• Light one firework at a time, then move to a safe distance - keep spectators a safe distance away from fireworks.
• Only light fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from anything that might catch fire.
• Keep water handy. Douse fireworks that fizzle with water. Soak leftover items with water.
• Never stand over fireworks while lighting. Don't relight or stand over malfunctioning fireworks.
• Never light fireworks in bottles or cans, or use them in ways they are not intended.
• Never cut or take apart fireworks, and never add ingredients to fireworks.
• Always wear safety glasses when igniting fireworks.
• Never use fireworks in a manner that they were not intended or designed to be used.

Law enforcement works to keep the public safe, but also to prevent criminal elements from tainting the legitimate business activities of fireworks industry members. ATF is committed to preventing fireworks related tragedies and applauds fireworks industry members and associations for their contribution to fireworks safety.

ATF urges the public to report the use or sale of illegal fireworks or explosive devices by calling the toll-free ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662). Information can also be sent to, through ATF's website at Tips can be submitted anonymously using the Reportit® app or by visiting


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ATF, firework safety, fireworks, Murfreesboro, Nashville
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