Guide to Fireworks in D.C.

Kids with sparklers

As the July 4th holiday nears, many in the area anticipate the spectacular fireworks displays our nation’s capital offers. Just as many seem inspired to put on their own pyrotechnic display – at least if the sounds of mini explosions wafting through my window in years past are any indication. Given that Independence Day is just around the corner, it’s time for a friendly reminder about fireworks safety and what District residents can legally set off for their own amusement.

Most of the exciting, whiz-bang fireworks are prohibited in DC. And for good reason. In a brochure published by the Metropolitan Police Department, MPD reminds residents that more than 10,000 individuals are injured by fireworks each year in the United States, with 60% of injuries occurring around the July 4th holiday. The group most frequently injured? You guessed it – children under the age of 14.

If you decide to purchase consumer fireworks, the first step in staying safe is to buy them at licensed retailers.

Only those businesses that receive permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs are legally allowed to sell fireworks. Not sure which retailers have permits? Fortunately, DCRA provides a map for your convenience.  I’m not sure what it says about our neighborhood that Tenleytown boasts two of the only three fireworks sellers west of 14th street; the third is in Hawthorne. (Overall, 47 retailers in the District are allowed to sell consumer fireworks.) Rodman’s and Tenley Mini Market, which ironically is located adjacent to the Tenleytown fire station, can provide all your fireworks needs.

Next, know what fireworks are legal in DC. This is not just a safety issue. If found in possession of illegal fireworks, you could be subject to fines up to $2,000. So resist the urge to purchase fireworks outside the city that don’t comply with DC laws – even if they seem safe. To help in your shopping, here is a handy chart of what is and is not allowed in DC:

Fireworks Chart
If you do purchase fireworks, follow these common sense tips from The National Council on Fireworks Safety to keep you and yours safe:

    • Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks.
    • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
    • Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
    • Always have water ready if you are using fireworks.
    • Know your fireworks; Read the caution label before igniting.
    • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
    • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
    • Only light one firework at a time.
    • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
    • Lastly, soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor, fire resistant garbage can away from buildings and flammable materials.

But if I may suggest, consider skipping the at-home fireworks festivities in exchange for one of the many fantastic displays put on by the professionals around the District. If you want to avoid the crowds around the National Mall, walk on up to Fort Reno Park, which has a great view of fireworks – it is the highest point in the city after all. Or if that’s a step too far, there’s always A Capital Fourth on PBS – you can’t beat the up close view from the best seat in your house.

Regardless of where you celebrate the holiday, I hope you and all our neighbors in Tenleytown have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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