Be safety, fire wise on Fourth of July


It doesn’t get much more American on the Fourth of July than fireworks after a day of parades, barbecues, and get-togethers. And yet, few things are more potentially dangerous than personal pyrotechnics. In addition to the risk of injury and terrorizing pets, home fireworks can set off potentially devastating wildfires and personal property conflagrations.

Ready OC, Orange County’s foremost preparedness website, has a wide array of precautions and plans that can be used in the case of disasters — natural or manmade.

Education and awareness are vital on holidays and will remain important in the coming months, when the hot weather of summer takes hold and fire becomes an ever present concern.

For all their fun and fascination, fireworks require special attention to avoid turning holiday happiness into disaster. Outside of those in public shows and displays, all fireworks are barred in most of Southern California’s 296 cities (about 80 percent).

Dangerous fireworks, such as these pictured in 2015, are not permitted for use on the Fourth of July.
File photo by Christine Cotter/Behind the Badge

So-called Safe and Sane fireworks are legal in about one-third of the cities in Orange County: Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Santa Ana, Stanton, Villa Park, and Westminster.

Every year, home and grass fires are ignited by fireworks. Last year, in Contra Costa County dozens of fires were likely caused by Fourth of July fireworks. Likewise in Sacramento, 48 fires were tied to fireworks from July 1 to 5. In 2022, fireworks were confirmed and suspected in blazes in homes in Santa Ana and Fullerton.

Many of us still remember the explosion in 2021 in South Los Angeles that injured 17 people, displaced families, and cost the city more than $10.5 million after LAPD bomb technicians botched an attempt to remove 32,000 illegal fireworks stored in a home.

In addition, more pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. Across California, calls reporting missing pets spiked more than 300 percent on July 5, according to 24Pet, a microchip registry and lost pet database. In Orange County, nearly 60 dogs were brought to OC Animal Care in the first week of July last year.

Fireworks go off overhead as K9 patrol cars use their Code 3 lights to light up Glover Stadium during the OCPCA’s 27th Annual Police K-9 Benefit Show in Anaheim in 2015.
File photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

But if you simply have to express your freedom by using fireworks, here are some things to know:

  • Even in cities allowing fireworks, only Safe and Sane fireworks with the seal below are allowed. Any fireworks without that seal are not permitted. It is illegal to sell, transport, or use fireworks without the seal.
  • Each city has its own rules and regulations for when and where fireworks can be used. Check your city for your local regulations.
  • California has zero tolerance for the sale and use of illegal fireworks. These include firecrackers, sky and bottle rockets, Roman candles and fireworks that explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrollable manner.
  • If convicted, a violator could be fined up to $50,000 and be sent to jail for up to one year.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher available and/or a bucket of water and a hose nearby.
  • Back up immediately after lighting fireworks and never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Parents are liable for damages or injuries caused by their children using fireworks. Adults should always be present when minors use fireworks.
  • Always read directions.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors. Never use fireworks near dry grass or other flammable materials.
  • If you have noise-sensitive pets, the ASPCA has tips for how to make the holiday less traumatic for your furry companions.

The Orange County Fire Authority is a good resource as well, with handy information and fact sheets.

Follow these tips and celebrate safely for a fun and memorable Fourth of July holiday.