ETC Fireworks Treatment Technologies

Helping Local Law Enforcement Manage Confiscated Fireworks

Celebrations like the fourth of July often include spectacular displays of fireworks.  While thrilling to watch, fireworks, both legal and illegal, pose threats to human health and the environment.  Unburned fireworks may be hazardous because they are “reactive” (i.e., may be explosive), and may pose risks since they are “toxic” (may contain toxic metals and perchlorate).  Each year, the Office of the State Fire Marshal seizes tons of unburned and confiscated fireworks.

Thousands of tons of consumer fireworks are shipped into California each year, a fraction of which are confiscated by local law enforcement. The type of fireworks confiscated in a particular city or county depends on local regulations. Confiscated fireworks may include “safe and sane” consumer fireworks, as well as illegal fireworks such as M-80s, cherry bombs, and unknowns or homemade fireworks.

At the request of the State Fire Marshal, DTSC identified and evaluated potential treatment technologies for managing large volumes of confiscated fireworks.  The Office of the State Fire Marshal, in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies, is responsible for the safe disposal of fireworks.

DTSC’s Technology Development Branch identified and evaluated fourteen technologies used by the explosives and ammunition industry as potential disposal alternatives for fireworks. Eleven treatment systems and three off-site facilities were identified as possible alternatives to open burn/open detonation. The treatment systems reviewed typically involved combusting or detonating fireworks in an enclosed chamber. Some units were equipped with air emission controls but the type of controls varied widely.

State Fire Marshal Project

On May 4, 2009, DTSC and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Under the MOA, DTSC agrees to give Cal Fire one million dollars that DTSC obtained from a pyrotechnics manufacturer as a Supplemental Environmental Project under a Modified Consent Judgment. Cal Fire agrees to use the money exclusively to manage fireworks seized by the local enforcement agencies. The State Fire Marshall, an office within Cal Fire, has the statutory mandate to manage seized fireworks which are hazardous waste in most cases.  

DTSC is also developing regulations that will authorize the State Fire Marshal to own and operate the mobile units to treat seized fireworks; the regulations will apply only to the State Fire Marshal.  The regulations include technical and operational requirements that will protect human health and the environment.  If you are interested in these regulations, DTSC invites you to sign up on the DTSC ListServ dedicated to the issue of fireworks.

For more information


Government Web Sites


Other Fireworks Related Regulations


DTSC Contacts:

  • For firework treatment technologies: Suzanne Davis in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology at (916) 327-4206
  • For permit related information: Beverly Rikala in the Cleanup Program Operating Facilities Team at (916) 255-3746