Why You Should Never Buy Fireworks in Brown Packaging

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Think the fireworks in the brown packaging are more exciting and have a bigger bang? That might be true, but that bigger bang has a risk you should know about.

In 2020, you may have already been hearing spontaneous fireworks at night—and will probably continue to hear more. Many mainstream fireworks shows have been canceled throughout the United States to prevent crowding, so people are finding ways to celebrate the Fourth without leaving their homes. That includes creating their own fireworks displays. Sales of fireworks have surged. There’s an extra inventory of fireworks with all of the canceled shows, leading some fireworks stores to do massive curbside sales. Unfortunately, this could lead to professional-grade fireworks ending up in the hands of ordinary consumers.

It’s the duty of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to test and approve all fireworks. If CPSC doesn’t deem the firework safe, it doesn’t get the CPSC seal of approval for consumer use.

What’s so dangerous about fireworks in brown packaging?

The CPSC warns against buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because it is a sure sign the fireworks were made for professional displays and could be dangerous for consumers to use. In addition to the CPSC warning, Julie Heckman, executive director at American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) adds, “Be aware of fireworks not packaged with warnings and labels as they may be illegal explosives and very dangerous!” If you’re gearing up to use legal fireworks, here are some firework safety tips you shouldn’t be without from the CPSC and APA:

How dangerous can they be?

The fireworks sold in big variety packs at your favorite store can’t be that dangerous, right? After all, they look like they could be sold in the toys section. But all fireworks, even those fun novelties, and sparklers can be dangerous when not used safely. According to the 2020 CPSC fireworks safety report, there were an estimated 7,300 injuries just in the one month surrounding the Fourth of July in 2019, and about 2,600 of those injuries happened to kids 14 years old and younger. Smaller fireworks are often the most dangerous, especially these ones.

Adult supervision is a must

When it comes to firework safety tips and children, the CPSC makes it pretty clear—never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Even sparklers, which kids have been waving around for hundreds of years, are quite dangerous. When you get down to it, it’s a very pointy object that burns as hot a blow torch—about 2,000 degrees. “Extreme care must be practiced when sparklers are used and only under close adult supervision,” says Heckman. Sparklers injuries accounted for about 500 injuries in tots five years old and younger. Watch this sparkler safety video from the APA with your kids before lighting one. Also, see if your kids can guess the fun names of these firework patterns.

What not to do

If you’re going to set some fireworks off, don’t do it barefoot. Heckman says to wear closed-toe shoes and safety glasses to protect your eyes, keep long hair pulled back, and don’t wear clothes with loose hanging fabric that could catch fire. If possible, use a utility-style lighter for a safer distance between your arm and the fuse. Also, absolutely do not smoke while around fireworks.

Be alert and sober

BBQs and beer go hand in hand on the Fourth, but if you don’t want to lose a hand (or hurt someone else), don’t drink and set off fireworks. Not to mention, even large gatherings are dangerous in and of themselves this year, so wear masks, maintain social distancing, and keep the guest list on the smaller side if you do hold a Fourth of July get-together. An incident in the CPSC report tells of a 61-year old man who died after lighting a firework the wrong way, causing it to hit him in the chest. He had been drinking during the day, and police found many empty alcohol containers at the scene. Spectators, be careful when it comes to drinking alcohol too.

Pet care

Keep your pets inside. Even if they aren’t afraid of the noise or lights, a dog or cat’s curiosity of the fireworks could get them hurt or they could walk or run into the path of a firework. Find out why dogs are so afraid of fireworks.

Where to ignite fireworks

Firework safety begins at home, but don’t shoot them off near your house or off your deck. That’s just too close and could start a fire. Heckman says fireworks should be lit away from buildings and on a flat, level, hard, and fireproof surface with no debris like trash or vegetation that could catch on fire. Also, don’t light fireworks under power lines or anything combustible, like a propane tank. Keep a bucket full of water close by and a garden hose. Be sure to turn the faucet on and ensure the water is running to the hose, so should you need to, you can put out a fire immediately.

fireworkPiyasak Siriwan/Shutterstock

Check the weather

The weather is actually a significant factor in firework safety, and it’s not just rain that can dampen the festivities. High winds conditions aren’t safe for lighting fireworks. Fireworks can tip over or the wind could send them in the path of spectators or passersby. Light fireworks with the prevailing wind blowing away from the spectators.

Keep spectators safe

Spectators should be watching from a safe distance. Heckman says for fountain and cone fireworks; spectators should be at least 25 feet away and for aerial fireworks at least 40 feet away. Remember, each state and municipality have specific laws regarding fireworks; check to find out which are legal in your state.

Never do these things with fireworks

Don’t shoot fireworks from a metal or glass container and never aim fireworks at another person. Don’t carry fireworks in your pocket. Never place any part of your body directly over a firework device. Never bundle fireworks for a bigger bang. It be might be tempting to combine fireworks or take them apart to make your own creation, but the CPSC says never to light more than one firework at a time.

Don’t relight a dud

Don’t relight a firework that didn’t go off the first time; it still could go off and explode. That’s what happened to a 29-year-old man who tried to relight a mortar. The mortar exploded and came out at a weird angle and hit him in the eye. It blew out his eyebrow ring and injured his eyeball, according to the 2018 CPSC report.

Don’t pick up fireworks you find

If you see a firework on the ground, leave it. There’s no telling why it’s on the ground. Report it to the police or fire department. If you’re a parent, be sure to warn your kids of this danger. Kids may pick up a discarded firework and think it’s an opportunity for some fun, but it could actually be one of the most dangerous fireworks out there.


Don’t be in a rush to pick up spent fireworks. Let them stand for at least 20 minutes before you pick them up, or you could get burned. Next, submerge all the fireworks in a bucket of water and let them soak overnight. (The same goes for duds, except to be extra safe and scoop them up with a shovel and then submerge in water.) Remove the soaked fireworks from the bucket and place it in a trash bag and dispose of them with your other household trash. Firework safety, prep, and cleanup are a lot of work. Yes, it’s sad that many professional fireworks shows are canceled this year, but there are other ways to celebrate the Fourth this year without these potential risks.

Plus, check out our hub of ideas for your Fourth of July staycation this year.

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Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and Realtor.com., among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.