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Safe and sane fireworks: What are they and how do we dispose of them?

Ramesh NG / Wikipedia

CENTRAL COAST, Calif. (KION-TV) -- A lot of people light fireworks in celebration of the 4th of July. While many California cities allow "safe and sane" or consumer fireworks, they don't always discuss what that means or how to properly dispose of said fireworks after the festivities.

What are safe and sane fireworks?

Safe and sane, or consumer fireworks, are those "small fireworks usually sold at stands around the Fourth of July holiday," according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). "They include ground devices containing less than 50 milligrams of flash powder and aerial devices containing less than 130 milligrams of flash powder."

The ATF differentiates consumer and display fireworks by defining that later as those used in shows under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician. These fireworks include aerial shells, cakes, candles and other display pieces monitored by a federal explosives licensee or a professional permitted by ATF.

A list of where to purchase CAL FIRE-approved safe and sane fireworks locally, is available here. These cities include Watsonville, Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Gonzales, Greenfield, King City, Marina, Soledad, Salinas and Seaside.

Which fireworks are considered illegal?

According to CAL FIRE, "California has zero tolerance for the sale and use of illegal fireworks." CAL FIRE classifies illegal fireworks as sky and bottle rockets; Roman candles; aerial shells; firecrackers; and any other type of firework that explode, are airborne or move along the ground in an "uncontrollable manner."

The City of Salinas says that fines can start at $1,500 ($1,250 per lit wick, plus $250 for noise violation) for illegal fireworks, and can result in a $50,000 total fine with potential jail time.

According to the City of Santa Cruz, fines will be tripled July 4 through July 7 and include setting off fireworks of any kind within city limits. "The Santa Cruz Police and Fire Departments [would like to] remind everyone that all fireworks, including those marked 'safe and sane,' are illegal in the City of Santa Cruz."

What happens to fireworks seized by CAL FIRE?

According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, "CAL FIRE-Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) [can] 'manage' seized fireworks. Specifically, the State Fire Marshal is allowed to utilize the fireworks for safety, education, training, testing and enforcement purposes."

This statute (Senate Bill 277) was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 2nd, 2022. It prohibits, however, the State Fire Marshal from repurposing, transferring or selling seized fireworks.

To report seized fireworks to CAL FIRE, the Office of the State Marshal is asking people to fill out this form.

How to dispose of safe and sane fireworks

"Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water before discarding," said San Benito and Monterey County CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Josh Silvera. "Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies."

The City of Seaside suggests soaking both spent and unused fireworks overnight before officially disposing of them.

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Jeanette Bent

I’ve been an international professional writer and performer for over 25 years. With a background in journalism, creative writing, dance and aerial, I find the intersection between all of these skills lands itself somewhere under the term “storytelling.”


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