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Are Fireworks Illegal in California?

Don’t Use Fireworks in Sonoma County. It’s Illegal.

The 4th of July is days away, making it a good time to discuss the dangers of using fireworks. While Independence Day celebrations call for BBQs, family gatherings, and lots of booze, people are also ready to light up the sky. After over a year of struggling through a global pandemic, residents are ready to return to normal and enjoy social activities. However, firework use is strictly illegal in Sonoma County and most cities in California.

According to a press release by the Sonoma County Administrator’s Office, The National Fire Protection Association reports that fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires. Additionally, in 2018, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 people for fireworks-related injuries, 5,600 of which occurred between June 22 and July 22, 2018.

Not to mention, Sonoma County has issued a state of emergency due to extreme drought.

For these reasons and more, the Sonoma County Fire Marshal has issued a warning that “all fireworks use is banned in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. Those caught using fireworks are subject to citation or jail time and may be held criminally and civilly responsible for damage caused. With the County of Sonoma declaring a drought emergency, these restrictions are even more important to prevent wildfire.”

Safe and Sane Fireworks in California

Some California cities permit the use of “safe and sane” fireworks, which are defined as any fireworks that do not come within the definition of "dangerous fireworks" or "exempt fireworks.” Simply put, safe and sane fireworks include anything that doesn’t fly or explode. That being said, dangerous fireworks include fireworks that contain the following:

  • Arsenic sulfide, arsenates, or arsenites
  • Boron
  • Chlorates, except:
    • In a colored smoke mixture in which an equal or greater amount of sodium bicarbonate is included
    • In caps and party poppers
    • In those small items (such as ground spinners) wherein the total powder content does not exceed 4 grams of which not greater than 15% (or 600 milligrams) is potassium, sodium, or barium chlorate
    • Gallates or Gallic acid

Magnesium (magnesium-aluminum alloys, called magnalium, are permitted)

  • Mercury salts
  • Phosphorus (red or white except that red phosphorus is permissible in caps and party poppers)
  • Picrates or picric acid
  • Thiocyanates
  • Titanium, except in particle size greater than 100-mesh
  • Zirconium

"Exempt fireworks" means any special item containing pyrotechnic compositions which the State Fire Marshal has determined to be limited to industrial, commercial, agricultural use, or religious ceremonies when authorized by a permit granted by the authority having jurisdiction.

California Fireworks Laws: What Is the Penalty for Illegal Fireworks in California?

The state of California has imposed several laws against the sale, manufacture, use, possession, and advertisement of fireworks for people without a valid license or permit. Considering most California residents do not have a valid license or permit, you should look closely at the following fireworks laws in California:

  • It is illegal to possess dangerous fireworks without a valid permit.
  • It is illegal to place, throw, discharge or ignite, or fire dangerous fireworks at or near any person or group of persons where there is a likelihood of injury to that person or group of persons.
  • It is illegal to store any fireworks without a valid permit.
  • It is illegal to store, sell, or discharge any type of fireworks in or within 100 feet of a location where gasoline or any other flammable liquids are stored or dispensed.

The penalty for possessing dangerous fireworks without a valid permit is a misdemeanor punishable by $500 to $50,000 depending on the gross weight of the unaltered dangerous firework. All other offenses listed above are misdemeanors punishable by $500 to $1,000 fines and/or up to 1 year in jail.

Firework Rules in Sonoma County

Although California strictly prohibits the discharge, possession, sale, manufacturing, and advertising of fireworks without a valid license or permit, cities may adopt their own regulations on “safe and sane” fireworks. Don’t get excited though, as the use of all fireworks is banned in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County while “safe and sane” fireworks are only allowed in the areas where they were purchased.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department will be strictly enforcing these rules, so if you are caught using any type of fireworks, you may be arrested, fined, sentenced to jail, and more. The penalties will be worse if you reportedly possessed dangerous fireworks.

With this in mind, we summarize the fireworks regulations in the incorporated areas within Sonoma County:

  • Cloverdale: The sale and discharge of State-approved fireworks are permitted within the city limits. All other fireworks use (illegal - fly through the air, across the ground, or explode) are prohibited.
  • Cotati: All fireworks are banned.
  • Healdsburg: All fireworks including "Safe and Sane" are prohibited in the City Limits and the surrounding unincorporated County Areas.
  • Petaluma: There is a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for all firework use – including fireworks previously considered legal. Property owners will be held responsible for firework activity that occurs on their property and will be cited accordingly. Violations will incur a $1,000 fine.
  • Rohnert Park: Sales of State-Approved Fireworks are allowed from 8:00 a.m. on June 30th through 9:00 p.m. on July 4th. The use of state-approved fireworks may occur on July 2nd through July 4th between 8:00 am and 10:30 p.m. However, illegal fireworks are prohibited and enforcement teams will be issuing $1,000 citations for the possession, use, storage, sale, and discharge of illegal fireworks.
  • Santa Rosa: Prohibits all fireworks in the City of Santa Rosa and the unincorporated areas surrounding the city.
  • Sebastopol: Bans all fireworks including "Safe and Sane" in the City Limits and the surrounding unincorporated County Areas.
  • Sonoma: Prohibits the sale, possession, or use of fireworks of any type.
  • Windsor: Prohibits all fireworks.

Don’t Lose Your Freedom on Independence Day

As you can see, you’re better off NOT using, selling, or possessing fireworks this 4th of July holiday, and any day for that matter. It’s better to be safe than sorry, as you could face criminal penalties and even civil lawsuits if you damage property or cause injuries from using fireworks. If your 4th of July didn’t go as planned and you got arrested for using fireworks, our experienced attorney is just a phone call away at (707) 418-5352!

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