‘Please leave the fireworks to the professionals,’ Commissioner Outlaw says

Though consumer fireworks are legal within the city limits, several stipulations limit where and when they can be used.


Fireworks explosion in the sky. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Fireworks can be quite the contentious topic in and around the city of Philadelphia. Some love flashy displays; others despise them.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is here, and Philly Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw made it clear where she stands well in advance.

“Please leave the fireworks to the professionals,” she said.

Outlaw took time during a recent city gun violence press conference to make an informal public service announcement about the use of fireworks, and to clear up some of the “confusion.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Before Mayor Jim Kenney officially signed the updated fire code on July 3, 2019, setting off consumer fireworks was illegal within city limits, which meant the city’s law was in conflict with Pennsylvania law.

As of now, though, the only fireworks that can be ignited by your average Philadelphian are consumer fireworks — think firecrackers and small ground-based fireworks. Commercial fireworks can only be used by licensed professionals. And “M-Series fireworks” like cherry bombs are categorized as “illegal explosive devices” and can’t be used at all.

“Utilizing either commercial-grade or illegal explosive devices such as `M-Series’ devices can lead to serious charges. We’re talking felonies here, many of which get prosecuted federally,” Outlaw said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Seems pretty clear cut: Regular individuals over the age of 18 can use consumer fireworks, right?

Not so fast.

“Still, you can be in violation of the law if … you use them within 100 feet of any occupied structure, you use them on public or private property without permission of the owner, if they are used from within or pointed toward a vehicle or a building, or if used when a person is under influence of alcohol or drugs,” Outlaw said.

Despite legalization, Outlaw cautioned against the use of fireworks, citing the injury risk. At the same press conference, she also talked about the risk of drunk driving during a period of celebration in the city.

“We implore everyone to stay safe and enjoy the next few weeks in our city. Celebrate, but please celebrate safely,” the police commissioner said.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal