Alameda Attorney’s Office: Outlining the fireworks laws for Alameda

Independence Day is quickly approaching and, whether it is due to the months of shelter-in-place or the recent civil protests, people will be understandably looking for ways to blow off steam.

For some, sparklers and confetti poppers are enough to celebrate the Fourth of July. Others, like the Alameda man found with 500 pounds of illegal fireworks, may be looking for a little more “bang.”

In the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, Alameda residents may experience an increase in fireworks activity. It is important to remember, particularly during our dry summer season, that fireworks can be dangerous if handled or used incorrectly and are generally illegal to possess. If common sense isn’t enough to persuade someone from shooting an explosive into the dry brush, there are several state and local laws that drive it home.

Illegal conduct involving fireworks generally falls in two categories – the sale/possession of fireworks and the use of fireworks. On the state-level, Health and Safety Code Sections 12670 – 12690 deal with fireworks. For example, California Health and Safety Code Section 12676 makes it illegal to sell, transfer, or give dangerous fireworks to anyone without a valid permit, while Section 12677 generally makes it illegal to possess dangerous fireworks without a valid permit. Section 12679 makes it illegal to sell, store, or discharge fireworks near a gas station or near an area where flammable liquids are stored or dispensed and Section 12680 makes it illegal
to discharge fireworks in situations where it may harm others or cause fear or panic.

For the City of Alameda, the Alameda Municipal Code contains a section addressing fireworks. Seated in Chapter IV – Offenses and Public Safety, Article V; Section 4-35 of the Alameda Municipal Code prohibits both the furnishing of fireworks (either by sale or gift) and use of fireworks. A copy of the municipal code controlling fireworks can be found here:

Section 4-35.1 defines “fireworks” as “any pasteboard or paper tube or similar device containing combustibles, or explosives for producing noise or display of light.” For example, rockets, Roman candles, cannons, bombs, or other devices designed to produce noise, light, or a pyrotechnic display would qualify as a prohibited “firework.” Notably, this code section does not make any distinctions about the size of the firework.

Section 4-35.2 prohibits the sale or gifting of fireworks. Section 4-35.2 also states that “[a]ny fireworks displayed in or about any store, or the store windows thereof, or in or about any other building or place, shall be construed as offering the same for sale.” For store and shop owning residents, this means it may be wiser to stick with decorative flags instead of decorative M-80s for our Independence Day, as displaying a firework in the shop could be seen as an offer to sell the firework.

This year’s Fourth of July will undoubtedly mean many different things. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, questions remain whether live fireworks events will be held in the Bay Area as venues consider this year’s annual display. 2 Nonetheless, when it comes to fireworks, let us leave the explosive segments of the celebrations to professionals and have a safe Independence Day.

The Alameda City Attorney Office’s Prosecution Unit represents the People of the State of California in misdemeanor criminal matters referred by law enforcement agencies, such as the Alameda Police Department or Code Enforcement Division. City Prosecutors are further charged with bringing affirmative litigation, in coordination with the District Attorney’s Office, in response to violations of consumer protection and fair housing laws, and protecting consumers against fraud and unfair business practices. If you have additional questions, please contact the City Attorney’s Office’s Prosecution Unit at 510-747-4772, or email

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Author: Wes Cheung, Kristina Swafford