What’s legal and what isn’t: Your guide to shooting off personal fireworks in the DC area this Fourth of July

Officials across the D.C. region said the best way to avoid fiery entanglements and stay safe this Independence Day is to leave setting off fireworks to the experts. It’s safer and won’t break the bank, either.

But — if you plan on setting off your own show this Fourth of July, it’s important to know what’s allowed by the law and what isn’t so that your bank account (or parts of your body) don’t blow up.


Only sparklers and certain novelty items are allowed in Maryland. All other fireworks are illegal. If you’re in Prince George’s or Montgomery County, though, fireworks of any kind are prohibited.


Virginia has published a list of all the known fireworks permitted by the state.

As a general overview, sparklers, novelty items, torches, and stationery box fireworks like fountains are allowed in Virginia. It’s important to note that any firework that shoots above 16.4 feet is prohibited. Projectile fireworks that launch up into the air such as rockets, mortars and shells aren’t allowed.

Any fireworks that move on the ground — like space flyers or jack in the boxes — are also not allowed.

In the city of Alexandria, no fireworks are allowed.

The Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office also wants you to be aware of safety. It said nearly 30% of all fireworks related injuries occur to the hands and arms.

The department has an ongoing safety awareness campaign to make sure you’re prepared if you are setting off fireworks in the area.


In the District, fountains are allowed but sparklers must be less than 20 inches for fire hazard reasons.

D.C. police shared a full list of what’s permitted in the city: Sparklers less than 20 inches long, torches, fountains and paper caps are among the options. Bigger firework displays like cherry bombs, roman candles and artillery shells aren’t allowed.

If you’re caught with illegal fireworks, fines could be up to a $1,000. But fire officials warn that’s nothing compared to the bodily or property damage these explosives can do if brought into the area illegally — or even if legal fireworks are handled improperly.

Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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