On behalf of Bradley, Gmelich & Wellerstein LLP, we would like to extend our best wishes for a safe and happy Fourth of July. In addition to barbecues and time with family and loved ones, we have no doubt that many of you are already looking forward to the time-honored tradition of detonating some small explosives. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we mean fireworks! Whether it is a professional extravaganza viewed by thousands, or the neighborhood children lighting sparklers, this Independence Day will be marked by community after community putting down the forks and knives, and breaking out the lighters and matches.

It goes without saying that lawyers are blessed and cursed with a subtle mix of foresight, and worst-case hypothetical scenarios that run about our heads. As such, we could not pass on the opportunity to discuss fireworks safety and liability. When handled improperly, fireworks can result in everything from a minor boo-boo requiring a kiss from mom or dad, to more serious conditions requiring a trip to the emergency room. In addition, the purchase, sale and use of fireworks are governed by inconsistent, and often overlapping, rules and regulations. Violation of these rules and regulations can result in a hefty fine, or worse. This article will assist in highlighting some of these inconsistencies, as well as providing some basic, easy-to-follow firework safety guidelines.

We highly recommend that you research your particular community’s ordinances, regulations, and/or prohibitions regarding the purchase and use of fireworks prior to the upcoming holiday. Note that you need to check multiple sources given the possibility that rules may overlap, or even conflict. When in doubt, follow the most restrictive version of the law. In the event that is not your cup of tea, contact your local fire department, or see if your community has established a fireworks hotline you can call to have questions answered.

The State of California is a perfect example of the need for residents to carefully examine fireworks restrictions from multiple levels of government. The California Health and Safety Code addresses fireworks and pyrotechnic devices at sections 12500-12728. However, residents of Los Angeles County, for example, are subject to additional regulations. While state law permits the use of “Safe and Sane” fireworks, Los Angeles County has banned the sale and use of such fireworks in all unincorporated areas of the County. That said, some cities within Los Angeles County (approximately 37[1]) permit the sale and use of fireworks deemed to be “Safe and Sane” under Health and Safety Code section 12529. For better or for worse, overlapping regulations can mean the difference between a fun night of fireworks in the front yard, and a story that will be told for years to come about watching dad get a ticket from the police officer who confiscated the fireworks before the grand finale. Our advice is to learn the rules before you light that ground bloom flower, roman candle, cherry bomb, M-80, or other box-o-dynamite!

Once you confirm your community’s requirements regarding use of fireworks, there are many simple, common-sense steps you can take to protect your little ones, yourself, your neighbors, and your property. Such steps include, but are not limited to, reading and following the directions printed on the fireworks, igniting at a safe distance from people and structures, having a hose or bucket of water close by in the event it is needed, and not giving fireworks to young children. For more information on fireworks safety, contact your local fire department.

We here at Bradley, Gmelich & Wellerstein LLP wholeheartedly intend to celebrate this Fourth of July by eating too much, laughing too hard, and enjoying fireworks in one form or another. When ignited safely and responsibly, fireworks can, and will continue to be, a tradition celebrated in communities throughout our great country for years to come.

Happy Fourth of July!

[1] According to the Los Angeles City Fire Department (www.fire.lacounty.gov).