Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

ATF seal
ATF text
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF Press Release

Contact: Ben Benson
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 11, 2024

ATF Warns Against Dangerous Illegal Explosive Devices

Philadelphia – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Philadelphia Field Division warns Pennsylvanians about the dangers of illegal explosive devices before the 4th of July Holiday, and encourages the public to report their manufacture and sales for the safety of their community.

“You risk your own and your family’s safety when you use or even just handle Illegal explosive devices,” said Eric DeGree, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Philadelphia Field Division. “Their manufacture, storage and handling puts neighborhoods in danger of explosions and fire. When you buy them, you’re supporting dangerous criminal activity.”

These dangerous devices are a particular concern in Pennsylvania, which accounted for almost 20% of all ATF illegal explosive device investigations nation-wide since 2020. To tackle the problem ATF Philadelphia works with state and local fire and police agencies as well as federal law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to prevent manufacture and sales, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Tim Brooks, a Certified Explosive Specialist Bomb Technician from the Philadelphia Police Department Bomb Disposal Unit assigned to the ATF Philadelphia Arson and Explosives Task Force, is all too familiar with the danger posed by these devices. “These are extremely sensitive to heat, shock and friction. As they are illegally manufactured there is no safety oversight and no quality control. The fillers inside occasionally contain small rocks that when bumped together can cause the slightest spark and set these off.”

These devices, which can go off unexpectedly, cause extensive property damage, devastating physical injuries – especially to arms and eyes, and deaths every year.

ATF actively regulates and investigates the illegal use of explosives as part of its core mission. Under federal explosives law, it is illegal to manufacture, store, distribute, receive or transport explosive materials without a federal explosives license or permit. Violations are punishable with up to 10 years in federal prison.

  • It is important to distinguish illegal explosives from regular consumer fireworks. Here are some signs that a device may be an illegal explosive device:
  • They are sold in a non-commercial location, such as out of a vehicle or residence.
  • The person with the device has no evidence of a receipt or commercial packaging, or they cannot tell you where they originally purchased it.
  • The device is often 1-6 inches long and up to an inch or more in diameter.
  • The casing resembles a roll of coins with a fuse. Some outer shells are made of cardboard tubes.
  • The outer covering is red, silver or brown in color.
  • The device looks oddly shaped and wrapped in brown paper that may be filled with an explosive material.

These devices should not be handled if you have or find one. Anyone with such explosives (or items they think may be explosives) should act with extreme care and contact their police of fire departments for guidance. Either call the ATF tip line below or 911 to turn it over. The authorities will coordinate for proper safe handling and disposal.

To protect yourself and your community ATF urges the public to report manufacturing or sales to your local police or ATF tip line at 888-ATF-BOMB (283-2662), 888-ATF-TIPS (283-8477),, , or via the ReportIt® app.

“We want everyone to have a happy and safe 4th of July and summer,” said DeGree. “Don’t let dangerous illegal explosives ruin your summer – or your life.”

For further information on illegal explosives, visit the ATF’s website at

Contact: Ben Benson, Public Information Officer (PIO),

An official website of the U.S. Department of Justice

Looking for U.S. government information and services?