Fireworks are often a part of American’s Fourth of July traditions, but it’s important to know how to handle them safely. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says fireworks are the cause of approximately 18,500 fires every year. Even a simple sparkler can reach a temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to burn some metals, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The NFPA urges people not to use consumer fireworks and says the safest option for you and your family is to attend a fireworks show put on by professionals. If you choose to use fireworks, however, follow these tips to help keep your holiday safe and fun.

Know the Laws

Before you consider using fireworks you need to know (and then follow) the laws regarding fireworks in your area. Some states prohibit all consumer fireworks, while other states permit only sparklers and some other novelty fireworks. In Pennsylvania, fireworks laws have changed. According to the Pennsylvania State Police, consumers can now purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks that were previously only available to out-of-state residents. Be sure to check your local laws before even purchasing fireworks.

Avoid Illegal Fireworks

Since fireworks contain explosive materials, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requires a license in order to manufacture fireworks. Never attempt to make your own fireworks, as the ATF states that they can be especially dangerous and unpredictable. You’ll also want to avoid buying illegal fireworks, which can be tricky given that firework stands tend to pop-up around the July Fourth holiday. The ATF advises that you avoid:

  • Purchasing fireworks at someone’s home or vehicle.
  • Buying fireworks that are not in commercial packaging. Anything resembling a roll of coins with a fuse, that is in a cardboard tube or is oddly shaped may be illegal fireworks.
  • Devices like M-80s, M-100s and cherry bombs, which can unexpectedly detonate because of heat, friction or shock. (They are also banned in many states.)

The CPSC also warns that fireworks wrapped in brown paper are generally intended for use by trained professionals.

Safety Tips to Follow

Once you’ve determined it’s legal for you to use consumer fireworks in your area and you’ve purchased legal fireworks, it’s important to keep the following safety precautions in mind:

  • Keep them outside. Never light fireworks inside, and always keep them far away from dry grass, plants, houses, and other flammable objects, says Safe Kids Worldwide.
  • Supervise children. Young children should never be allowed to handle fireworks — even sparklers, according to the CPSC. Always supervise children near fireworks.
  • Take fire precautions. Keep water (a full bucket or a garden hose ready to go) and a fire extinguisher nearby, in case you need to douse the fireworks or anything they may ignite.
  • Watch your wardrobe. Do not wear loose clothing when using fireworks, says Safe Kids Worldwide.
  • Get back. When you’re lighting the fireworks (always one at a time), make sure no part of your body is directly above the device, says the CPSC. As soon as it is lit, move a safe distance away.
  • Douse them when done. Once a firework is done burning, soak it with water from a bucket or the hose before throwing it away. If one of your fireworks doesn’t seem to be working properly, the CPSC says you should not pick it up or try to light it again. Douse it with water and then throw it away.
  • Never point fireworks at people. Make sure your fireworks are not aimed at any people, animals or property.
  • Protect pets. Provide a safe place indoors for your pets to stay during the festivities, suggests the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Consider turning on a TV or radio to help drown out the pops and bangs from fireworks nearby.

It’s safer to leave fireworks displays to the professionals. But, if you do decide to use fireworks, follow the law and take appropriate safety measures.