Fireworks are synonymous with the Fourth of July holiday and other summer celebrations, but these devices are dangerous. Fireworks burn up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause burns, lacerations, amputations and blindness. Fireworks should only be handled by professionals.
Backyard Fireworks Are Illegal in Maryland
You cannot have a private display of fireworks at your home without a permit. All fireworks displays, regardless of location, require the proper permits and insurance. Call Baltimore County's Fire Marshal's Office at 410-887-4880 for information.
Fire officials strongly advise County citizens to leave fireworks to the professionals and enjoy one of the many public Fourth of July displays. A list of legal, public displays in Baltimore County is available online. The State Fire Marshal posts a list of all approved fireworks displays in Maryland.
Violators who possess or discharge illegal fireworks are subject to a misdemeanor fine of up to $250. The sale of fireworks without a permit is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine.
To report suspected illegal use of fireworks, call 911.
Transporting Fireworks Across State Lines Is Illegal
The sale of fireworks is legal in neighboring states, including Pennsylvania. However, it is illegal to purchase fireworks in other states and ignite them in Maryland.
Some Ground-Based Sparklers Are Legal in Baltimore County
In Baltimore County and most other Maryland counties, it is legal for consumers to purchase and use some hand-held and ground-based sparkler devices.
Consumer use of fireworks and sparklers is illegal in Baltimore City, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and in Ocean City. Contact the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal for details.
Under Maryland law, the following are not classified as fireworks and are legal for backyard use in Baltimore County:
- Toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns and other devices that use paper caps if the devices are constructed so that a hand cannot touch the cap when the cap is in place for use.
- Hand-held sparklers that do not contain chlorates or perchlorates (use "gold label" only).
- Ground-based sparkling devices that are non-aerial and non-explosive. Legal ground-based sparklers are stationary, sit on the ground and emit a shower of sparks several feet into the air. Some may whistle, but they do not pop or crack. They do not explode, shoot projectiles or move along the ground.
- Paper-wrapped snappers that contain less than .03 grains of explosive composition.
- Ash-producing pellets known as "snakes."
The state Fire Marshal provides a complete list of legal, ground-based sparkler devices (PDF).
Illegal Fireworks Devices
Any hand-held or ground-based device that creates an explosion, detonation, loud noise, that launches a projectile or moves along the ground under its own power is illegal in Baltimore County and elsewhere.
Examples of prohibited items include:
- Firecrackers, Cherry Bombs, Black Cats, M-80s, Crackling Balls and Smoke Bombs;
- Roman Candles and bottle rockets (whistling or with report);
- Sky Rockets, helicopter-type rockets, Spinning Wheels, Moving Tanks or other vehicles;
- Any firework shot from a mortar tube.
Using Legal Sparklers Safely
The County Fire Department and the Maryland State Fire Marshal offer these guidelines for safe, legal use of hand-held and ground-based sparklers:
- Hand-held sparklers are legal only if their packaging states that they do not contain chlorates or perchlorates.
- Do not allow children to handle ground-based or hand-held sparklers. The temperature of a sparkler can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When handling sparklers, do not wear loose clothing.
- Keep one or more buckets of water on hand and submerge spent sparklers in the water.
- You must be at least 16 years old to purchase hand-held and ground-based sparklers.
For complete information about state fireworks regulations and the safe use of fireworks and ground-based sparklers, visit the State Fire Marshal website.
The National Fire Protection Association provides more detailed information on fireworks safety.