Fireworks in Massachusetts

Enjoy supervised professional fireworks displays

Local fire departments supervise fireworks displays all over Massachusetts. Unfortunately, children and adults continue to set off illegal fireworks that start fires and cause serious injuries to themselves and others.

Fireworks can be deadly

A 45 year old Gloucester woman died in a December 22, 2003 house fire when someone threw fireworks and ignited a Christmas tree in the living room. Three other people were injured. On May 20, 1997, a 26 year old man from Watertown was killed while he was lighting fireworks in a hallway. A 27 year old Framingham man was killed on July 4, 1993, when backyard fireworks exploded in his face. On July 4, 1992, fireworks fatally injured a 30 year old man on a Fairhaven beach.

All fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts (MGL c148 s39)

The possession and use of all fireworks by private citizens is illegal in Massachusetts. This included Class C fireworks which are sometimes falsely called “safe and sane fireworks”. Class C fireworks include sparklers, party poppers, snappers, firecrackers, spinners, cherry bombs, and more. Sparklers burn at 1800 degree.

It is illegal to transport fireworks into Massachusetts, even if they were purchased legally elsewhere. Illegal fireworks will be confiscated on the spot.

Do not purchase fireworks through mail-order or online catalogs

The distribution of mail-order catalogs that clearly state that fireworks are illegal in some jurisdictions cannot be prohibited. State and local police regularly confiscate illegal shipments of fireworks into Massachusetts. Many unhappy consumers have lost both their money and the fireworks trying to circumvent the law.

Set a good example for children

Children imitate adults. If you use fireworks, children will copy you, not realizing how very dangerous fireworks are. Sixty percent of fireworks-related burn injuries reported by hospitals to the Office of the State Fire Marshal in 2013 were to children under age 18. Over one-quarter (27%) of the victims were children under age 10.

Fires caused by fireworks

In the past decade (2004-2013) there have been 802 major fire and explosion incidents involving illegal fireworks reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System. The incidents caused 14 civilian injuries, 2 fire service injuries, and an estimated dollar loss of $2 million, which is high considering most fireworks fires are outdoor brush fires.

  • On August 4, 2013, the Chicopee Fire Department responded to a fireworks explosion that severely injured a resident’s hand and also injured his young son. The State Police Bomb Squad was called to dispose of the illegal commercial grade fireworks.
  • On July 5, 2013, the Lowell Fire Department responded to a fire in an eight-unit apartment building. Fireworks set off inside a trash can on a porch started the fire.
  • On July 7, 2013, The Plymouth Fire Department was dispatched to a fire in a boat house. Someone ignited fireworks near storage supplies that started the fire. Damages were estimated at $4,000.
  • On January 9, 2013, Belmont firefighters extinguished two fires in one car; one in the passenger seat and one in the trunk. Smoldering fireworks caused the fires. Damage to the vehicle was estimated at $5,000.
  • On July 4, 2013, the Worcester Fire Department responded to a fire in a three-unit apartment building. Fireworks ignited the roof. One firefighter was injured at this fire. Damages were estimated at $12,000.
  • On March 20, 2014, the Abington Fire Department responded to a fireworks explosion in an apartment complex. A youth’s hand was amputated and a 31 year old man was injured when consumer grade fireworks exploded in his apartment.

Burns caused by fireworks

In the past decade (2004-2013), 49 people were treated at Massachusetts emergency rooms for severe burn injuries from fireworks (burns covering 5% or more of the body) according to the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System. Seventy-two percent of the victims were children and youths under age 25. These victims are scarred for life.

  • On March 18, 2013, a 19 year old Dartmouth man severely burned his hand when fireworks exploded inside his home.
  • On September 20, 2013, a 38 year old Boston man received severe chemical burns to approximately 30% of his body while experimenting at home with chemicals and fireworks that exploded.
  • On August 10, 2013, a 33 year old Beverly man was holding a handful of sparklers. While trying to light one sparkler, he inadvertently ignited them all and burned his hands.
  • On June 5, 2013, an 8 year old girl sat on a sparkler that ignited her dress. She received burns to 7% of her body.
Source: FireFACTORS – Office of the State Fire Marshal, Massachusetts Dept of Fire Services

Preventing Mulch Fires

Mulch is a combustible material that can be easily ignited by improperly discarded smoking materials. Hundreds of small and large fires are started this way every year. The risk is that what starts as a small outdoor mulch fire can quickly spread to buildings. A mulch fire can be well underway before someone notices or is alerted by smoke alarms or sprinkler systems activating.

New Regulation on Mulch Safety

The new regulation (527 CMR 17), took effect September 2012 and prohibits the new application of mulch within 18″ around combustible exteriors of buildings, such as wood or vinyl but not brick or concrete. Residential buildings with six units or less are exempt from this regulation, but all homeowners may also wish to adopt these safety practices. The regulation applies to all other buildings including commercial properties.

Tips for Property Managers, Building Owners, & Landscapers

  • Provide a minimum of an 18 inch clearance between landscape mulch beds and combustible building materials, such as wood, vinyl siding, and decks.
  • Use non-combustible mulch such as rock or pea stone around gas meters and combustible portions of the structure.
  • Provide proper receptacles for smoking materials at all entrances to public buildings and in designated smoking areas and remember to regularly empty smoke receptacles.
  • Grounds and maintenance crews should be aware when conditions are favorable for mulch fires and increase surveillance of mulch beds.
  • Keep mulch beds moist when possible.

Million Dollar Mulch Fire

  • The most notable event occurred at a Peabody apartment complex in May 2008. A cigarette-lit mulch fire caused a $6.7 million loss, displaced 750 people temporarily and 36 permanently.
  • In April 2012, improperly discarded smoking materials ignited mulch outside an assisted living center in Braintree. The fire forced the early morning evacuation of many older adults, some of whom suffered smoke inhalation injuries.

Report Mulch Fires

  • If you see anything smoking in a landscape bed, put it out if you can and report it. If the burning material is not thoroughly wet or removed it might re-ignite.
  • Report any smoke or fire via 9-1-1.

Be a Responsible Smoker: Put it Out. All the Way. Every Time!

  • If you smoke, remember to properly dispose of all smoking materials.
  • Always use appropriate receptacles for disposing of smoking materials and matches.
  • Don’t discard cigarettes into mulch or potted plants.
  • At home, use ashtrays that won’t burn or catch fire and that are deep. Wet them down before throwing out.
  • As more people smoke outdoors rather than inside, many building fires started by smoking begin on decks, porches, and exterior stairways.
  • Be smart in your choice of containers for butts. Consider using metal cans with sand for outside disposal.
  • Because of the risk of starting a fire, do not throw lit smoking materials out of the car window, it is illegal to do so and punishable by a fine of $100 and/or thirty days imprisonment (MGL C148 S34).

How Mulch Fires Start

  • In many mulch fires, the smoldering mulch tunnels under the surface and then breaks out into open flame.
  • Mulch that is piled too deeply, more than a few inches, can build up heat and spontaneously catch fire.
  • Mulch fires start more readily when the weather is hot and it has been dry for an extended time.
  • Factors such as below-average rainfall, dry conditions, warm temperatures, and high winds increase the risk of mulch fires.
Source: FireFACTORS – Office of the State Fire Marshal, Massachusetts Dept of Fire Services