Public Safety

Let Professionals Handle the Pyrotechnics


From the most delicate sparkler to ear-splitting noise-makers, all fireworks are illegal in San Diego County, a Sheriff’s Bomb-Arson sergeant reminded residents in advance of the Fourth of July holiday.

And they may be pretty, but fireworks of all kinds are dangerous too, Sgt. E.J Dayrit said.

“There are organized fireworks shows done by professionals,” Dayrit said. “Don’t take it into your own hands.”

Whether from patriotism or pyromania, every year thousands of people across the country ignore safety warnings and hurt themselves with fireworks around this time of year.

In 2011, 6,200 fireworks injuries—65 percent of all such injuries for the whole year— were treated in emergency rooms in a 30-day period around July 4, according to a new study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Injuries from fireworks range from burns to eye injuries to death. Last year four people in the U.S. were killed by fireworks, the Commission said.

Locally, a San Diego County resident recently suffered major injuries when a firework that was supposed to shoot a glittery flare skyward blew up in his hand, Dayrit said.

Non-professional fireworks displays are a serious fire risk, too. The National Fire Protection Association says more fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year.

In San Diego County, below average rainfall this winter and spring and some recent warm weather has left dry vegetation; even the smallest firework spark could ignite a large brush fire.

Those who ignore warnings can face stiff penalties, the Sheriff’s Department reminded residents. People convicted of using fireworks can be fined up to $50,000 and sent to prison or jail for up to a year.

Dayrit said some people intentionally carry illegal fireworks here from other states where they are legal, while other people receive them as gifts or have them left over from living somewhere else.

Either way, residents can call their local fire department or law enforcement to collect illegal fireworks. Dayrit said residents indeed call occasionally for help with disposal.  

“It does happen—about three weeks ago, got a call from a person who was going through their stuff in the garage, and found a bagful of fireworks of grandpa’s,” Dayrit said.

Even the Sheriff’s Bomb Arson Unit can safely store fireworks for only a short time. Periodically, the unit destroys the hundreds of pounds of illegal devices turned in or seized each year, incinerating them in a pit or detonating them safely.

View a photo gallery of the most recent disposal event in May.