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Things That Go Boom
Want to set off a few fireworks this Fourth? Here’s what’s legal, what’s not, and where you can get the best sparklers and more in the area. By Sarah Zlotnick
Comments () | Published June 29, 2009

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Unless you’re privy to a fabulous rooftop view of the Mall, finding a place to watch the July 4 fireworks can be quite the headache. Getting there early, securing a spot, parking the car, finding a bathroom—the list goes on. To avoid the hassle and celebrate without leaving the house, at-home pyrotechnic displays are the way to go. Read on for a summary by jurisdiction of what’s allowed, what’s illegal, and how to light up the night without burning it down when it comes to back-yard fireworks.


Good to go: Any nonmoving fireworks—such as sparklers (less than 20 inches long), torches, box fire, fountains, cones, dip sticks, nonpoisonous snakes, paper novelty items, colored lights, and paper caps—are legal.

Leave it to the experts: Firecrackers or fireworks that explode or eject pyrotechnic stars—tiny compounds that, when ignited, burn with color or exude a spark effect—are prohibited. This means cherry bombs, salutes, floral shells, artillery shells, helicopters, pinwheels, bottle rockets, and the Roman candle, a popular choice among overzealous at-homers. Devices with a side fuse are also not allowed.

Where to buy them: Teresa’s Garden Center runs a stand stocked with DC-approved ware at 1720 New York Avenue, Northeast. It’s open from 8 AM until as late as 11 PM in the days leading up to the Fourth.


Good to go: Fountains and sparklers, both of which produce non-independently moving, height-contained flames, will never get you in trouble. Pinwheels and pharaoh’s serpents are also acceptable.

Leave it to the experts: Any firework that explodes, travels laterally, rises into the air, or fires projectiles is illegal. See the DC section for examples.

Insider tip: Laws vary considerably by jurisdiction within Virginia. In Alexandria, sparklers and snakes, while approved at the state level, are illegal. Prince William, Arlington, and Fairfax counties ban anything that emits sparks greater than 12 feet. To figure out what’s allowed in your neighborhood, contact the fire marshal’s office at 804-249-1961 or 804-249-1965.

Where to buy them: Plan on driving. Phantom Fireworks’ closest permanent store is in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, and the seasonal stand (open until around July 6) is located at 137 Spotsylvania Mall Boulevard in Fredericksberg.

>> Next page: Maryland fireworks, safety tips, and more


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 06/29/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles