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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF News
For Immediate Release:
Neeta Sullivan

28, 2000

Guard Against Fireworks Tragedy
July 4 Holiday

- The Nation's chief investigating agency of explosives crimes called
on all Americans to practice fireworks safety to ensure that your July
4 holiday is a celebration and not a tragedy.

with the joys that fireworks bring this time of the year, we must remember
that improper and illegal use can cause irreparable damage," advises Bradley
A. Buckles, Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
ATF regulates explosives and investigates most explosives crimes.

Any fireworks
in the vicinity of your family, friends, and home should be legal and
used safely. ATF recommends a two-step safety plan. First, recognize that
all fireworks present a risk to persons and property. Second, never buy
or handle items with names like M-80, M-100, ashcan, and quarterstick.
These are illegal explosive devices -- not fireworks -- that may explode
without warning and have killed many times.

are more like small bombs and have caused many of the 7,500-plus injuries
attributed to fireworks most years. The total number of casualties caused
by the devices is unknown since evidence often has exploded or victims
cannot identify suppliers.

ATF requests
the public's assistance in exposing traffickers of illegal explosive devices
by calling their local ATF office. Director Buckles stressed that ATF
regards "bogus fireworks" as totally unpredictable. "They can seem innocent,
then go off in your face," he warned.

law enforcement agents rate handling illegal devices as their most hazardous

A typical
illegal explosive device is a cardboard tube:

  • filled with explosive
  • is 1 to 6 inches
    long and up to 6 inches in diameter;
  • is red, silver,
    or brown in color;
  • has a red, green,
    or blue fuse;
  • resembles a roll
    of nickels or quarters with a fuse;
  • sells for $1 to
    $5 or whatever buyers will pay.

Illegal explosive
devices are not like Class-C common fireworks that are legal in some States.
Common fireworks are regulated at the Federal level by the Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC). Common fireworks contain a trace or pyrotechnic
material, are labeled Class-C, identify the producer, and come with safety

Illegal explosive
devices meet neither safety nor quality standards. Heat, shock, or pressure
can trigger accidental detonation. Devices from the smallest M-80 to the
largest quarterstick have caused fatalities.

Traffickers across
the United States will make sales pitches in the next few days to all
who will listen. Too often, the listeners are young. Children 5 to 19
years old account for about 44 percent of all fireworks-related injuries
in the United States.

"Our Nation's young
people need to understand the grave consequences that can result from
the illegal and improper use of fireworks,"said Director Buckles. ATF
also recommends checking with police, the sheriff, or the fire department
to make sure fireworks purchased are legal.

For more information
on ATF, visit the ATF Web site at