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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF News
For Immediate Release:
June 19, 2000
PIO Robert M. Schmidt

(651) 290-3092


On The
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) special agents who investigate
most incidents involving explosives ask the public to use caution when
celebrating the July 4th holiday with fireworks. ATF regulates explosives
and investigates most explosives crimes and accidents.

sure fireworks are legal in your area and that they are used safely,"
advised Richard E. Chase, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the St. Paul
Field Division for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The St.
Paul Field Division is comprised of 11 offices in the states of Minnesota,
Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Among SAC Chase's former
positions include the Special Agent in Charge for the Arson Enforcement
Branch in Washington, D.C. and a Team Supervisor for the ATF National
Response Team, a team of highly trained arson and explosives experts used
to investigate major bombings and arsons around the country.

fireworks from vendors who operate openly and welcome visits by fire departments
and police officers," Chase recommended. "Don't buy fireworks from people
who approach you, and are operating on the street. Too often, they sell
deadly, illegal explosives devices that may explode prematurely in your
hand or pocket."

a personal level, assume leadership among friends and family, making sure
all are observing safety," said Chase. "Discourage foolishness and games
using fireworks -and never mix alcohol and explosives."

The Consumer
Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates Class C common fireworks that
are legal in many states. These fireworks contain a trace of pyrotechnic
material, are labeled Class-C, identifying the producer, and come with
safety precautions. The CPSC reports annually that over 10,000 people
are injured using fireworks.

An unknown
number of injuries attributed to fireworks are caused by small illegal
explosive devices with names like M-80, M-100, M-1000, Ashcan, Cherry
Bomb, Silver Salute, Quarterstick, and Quarterpounder.

devices traffickers tout as fireworks are actually small, illegal, unstable
bombs that sometimes explode in the hands of unwary buyers.

A typical
illegal explosive device:
-resembles a
roll of coins with a fuse

-is a cardboard tube filled with an explosive material

-is one to six inches long and up to an inch in diameter

-is red, silver or brown in color

-sells between $1 to $5 on the street

explosive devices meet no safety standards and are often coated with a
dangerous explosive dust," said Chase. "Friction, heat, or a bump can
cause these devices to detonate." Each year ATF recovers and destroys
hundreds of thousands of these devices.

Why do
people make and sell illegal explosive devices which can send them to
prison for ten (10) years or result in homicide charges? "These devices
cost pennies to make and sell for a dollar or more," said Chase. "These
are high profit items."

can play an important role in curbing the pain caused by these illegal
devices," Chase explained. Chase invites the public to help expose these
illegal explosive traffickers by calling the national toll-free crime
hotline, 1-888-ATF-BOMB.

All explosives
present a risk, including legal fireworks. ATF investigates explosives
incidents in cooperation with state and local enforcement agencies.


C common fireworks are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
and are legal only when permitted by state law. Class C fireworks produce
small visible effects and contain less than 2 grains of pyrotechnic material
(7,000 grains per pound). The words "Class C Common Fireworks" and the
maker's name must be visible on each package.

Explosive Devices

devices are not fireworks.

devices are small bombs that maim, blind and kill. Traffickers sell the
devices to unwary buyers.

material in the devices exceeds the limit for common fireworks. The devices
do not meet any quality control standards and can explode due to heat,
friction or pressure.

trafficking in illegal devices can go to federal prison for 10 years.
Some have been tried for murder.

Power of Illegal Explosive Devices

M-80 illegal explosive device that detonates

…in the hand--can take off fingers.

…near the face--can put out eyes.

…in the mouth--can kill.

dozen M-80s exploding near a person can

…sever a hand or arm.

…cause other permanent, severe injuries.

…result in death.

carton of 1,400 M-80 devices has enough explosives power to
…wreck a

…damage a neighborhood. 500 pounds of M-80s

…are as deadly as SCUD missiles launched against allied forces in the
Persian Gulf War.

…can kill scores, injure hundreds.

to 1,500 pounds of M-80s

…are as powerful as the bomb that exploded at the New York World Trade
Center in 1993, killing six and wounding more than 1,000.

Bogus "Fireworks" Danger Factor

M-100, M-1000, Cherry Bomb, Silver Salute, Quarterstick, and Quarterpounder
are some of the street names for illegal explosive devices traffickers
describe falsely as fireworks. All types of the illegal device have maimed
and killed.


An M-80
is "touchy." A bump, heat or static electricity may detonate the device
in your pocket, your hand, your face.

sometimes sell bags of 72 M-80s. Each bag equals a stick of dynamite and
can demolish a room.

A truck
or trailer moving down the road with a load of M-80s compares to an armed
missile in flight. Everyone close is at risk.

sometimes store hundreds of pounds of illegal devices in homes and rental
storage units. These places become huge, unstable bombs capable of shattering
houses and businesses in a city block.

Safety Tips

tips from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms:

  • ATF agents consider
    all explosive materials hazardous, including fireworks. Thousands of
    injuries are linked to fireworks each year.

  • Firearms ordinances and laws vary from place to place. Get the facts.
    Check with your local fire department, police or sheriff.
  • Legal fireworks
    vendors operate from sites open to government safety inspectors. Items
    they sell should be clearly marked Class C Common Fireworks, list the
    maker, and come with instructions for safe use.
  • Traffickers of
    illegal explosive devices try to evade inspectors and police. The items
    they sell meet no safety standards and sometimes explode without warning.
  • Store fireworks
    in a cool, dry place not accessible to youngsters. Avoid rough handling.
  • Kids and fireworks
    can be a volatile mix. Responsible adults should supervise.
  • Only light fireworks
    outdoors in a clear area away from anything that might catch fire. Keep
    water handy.
  • Light one firework
    at a time, then move away to a safe distance.