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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF News

For Immediate Release
FY 99-7
Contact: Art Resnick
Date: June 15, 1999


Guard Against Fireworks Tragedy During July 4 Holiday

Washington--The Nation's chief investigator 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."

"Insist that any fireworks in the vicinity of your family, friends,
and home are legal and used safely," advises John W. Magaw, Director
of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). ATF regulates
explosives and investigates most explosives crimes.

Magaw recommended 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," said Magaw.

M-80s 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.

Many law enforcement agents rate handling illegal devices as their
most hazardous duty.

Magaw urged the public to help expose traffickers of illegal explosive
devices by calling the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB. The Director stressed
that ATF regards "bogus fireworks" as totally unpredictable. "They can
seem innocent, then go off in your face," he warned.



A typical illegal explosive device is a cardboard tube:

- filled with explosive material;

- 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 precautions.

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.

"Supervise young people around fireworks", says Magaw. ATF also recommends
checking with police, the sheriff, or the fire department to make sure
fireworks purchased are legal.

Most ATF investigations of illegal explosive devices are conducted
with State and local enforcement agencies.

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


Contact: * CPSC for data on fireworks injuries, legal fireworks.





This was last updated on June 16, 1999