Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1981 No. 15 -
Attorney General Ken Eikenberry


Such items as "smoke balls," "snakes" and "sparklers" ‑- which are commonly sold by fireworks' dealers for use on the Fourth of July ‑- do fall within the state statutory definition of "fireworks" in RCW 70.77.125.

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                                                                   June 25, 1981

Honorable R. Ted Bottiger
St. Sen., 2nd District
15711-62nd Avenue
Puyallup, Washington 98371                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1981 No. 15

Dear Senator Bottiger:

            By recent letter you requested our opinion on the following question:

            "Are smokeballs, snakes and sparkles [sparklers] considered fireworks items and subject to the 'safe and sane fireworks' provisions of chapter 70.77 RCW?"

            We answer your question in the affirmative.


            Chapter 70.77 RCW codifies the state fireworks law which was originally enacted as chapter 228, Laws of 1961.  The term "fireworks" is defined in RCW 70.77.125 as follows:

            "'Fireworks' means blank cartridges, toy pistols, toy cannons, toy canes or toy guns in which explosives are used, fire balloons (balloons of a type which have burning material of any kind attached thereto or which require fire underneath to propel them), firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, rockets, Roman candles, daygo bombs, or other fireworks of like construction and any fireworks containing any combustible or explosive substance for the purpose of producing a visible or audible effect by combustion,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] explosion, deflagration, or detonation, but does not include toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns, or other similar devices in which paper caps containing not more than twenty-five hundredths grain of explosive compound per cap are used.  Nothing herein shall be deemed to prohibit the use of any explosive or flammable compound, blasting caps and similar items used for industrial purposes."  (Emphasis supplied)

            We believe that what you have referred to in your letter as "smoke balls," snakes" and "sparkles" [sparklers]‑-which are commonly sold by fireworks' dealers for use on the Fourth of July‑-do fall within this state statutory definition.1/   It would also be our opinion, however, that such items are "safe and sane" fireworks, as defined in RCW 70.77.135, and not "dangerous fireworks," as defined in RCW 70.77.130.  The former definition includes,

            ". . . any fireworks not designated as 'dangerous fireworks' except that in all cases only end fuses may be used and the total pyrotechnic content of any one piece shall not exceed one hundred grams."

            Conversely, "dangerous fireworks" are defined in RCW 70.77.130 as follows:

            "'Dangerous fireworks', includes any of the following:

            "(1) Pyrotechnics or fireworks containing phosphorous, sulphocyanide, mercury, magnesium, potassium pierate, gallic acid, chlorate of potash and sulfur or chlorate of potash and sugar;

            "(2) Firecrackers, salutes, and other explosive articles of similar nature;

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(3) Blank cartridges;

            "(4) Skyrockets, rockets, including all similar devices employing any combustible or explosive material and which rise in the air during discharge;

            "(5) Roman candles, including all devices which discharge balls of fire into the air;

            "(6) Chasers, including all devices which dart or travel about the surface of the ground during discharge;

            "(7) Snakes, boa constrictors and snake nests, containing bichloride of mercury;

            "(8) All articles for pyrotechnic display, which contain gunpowder;

            "(9) Articles commonly known as son-of-a-gun, devil-on-the‑rock, crackit sticks and automatic torpedoes which contain arsenic;

            "(10) Explosives known as devil-on-the‑walk, or any other article of similar character which explodes through means of friction, and all other similar fireworks, unless otherwise designated;

            "(11) Toy torpedoes of all kinds;

            "(12) All pyrotechnic devices having a side fuse;

            "(13) Fire balloons or balloons of any type which have burning material of any kind attached thereto; and

            "(14) Such other fireworks as may be designated as dangerous by the state fire marshall."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Clearly, smoke balls, snakes and sparklers do not fall within the purview of subsections (1) through (13) of this latter statute.  As for subsection (14), we are informed that the state Fire Marshall has not designated those particular items as dangerous fireworks.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Not to be confused with the federally defined terms "common fireworks" and "special fireworks" in 49 U.S.C. § 173, to which the state Fire Marshall has referred in the past in classifying such items.