In its annual fireworks safety warning, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has offered advice on ways to cut down on the number of injuries from fireworks this holiday season.
CPSC spokeswoman Tamara Young, said "we're telling people to be careful about the type of fireworks they buy, to use them properly, and to check with state and local municipalties to see what kind are legal to use."
Young said consumers should, check package labeling to make sure that firecrackers contain no more than 50 milligrams or .772 grains of fire powder, the maximum amount of powder allowable under federal law for general public use.
"We're telling people to read directions and to always have proper supervision of fireworks." Young said. "It is very important to check that the use of fireworks is legal in a person's jurisdiction."
In the Washington metropolitan area. jurisdiction vary as to what kind of fireworks are permisable.
Alexandria has banned all fireworks, except those in public displays, while other Virginia jurisdictions in the area allow certain types of fireworks. Montgomery and Prince George's countries also have banned all fireworks, even though state law allows sparklers for use by the general public.
The District of Columbia as well as Fairfax County and Arlington allows what is called class-C" fireworks. which contain very little explosive power. There are penalties - fines and in some cases jail sentences - for illegal use of fireworks.
The penalties range upward to $1.000 and six months in jail. Fire officials in some jurisdictions , however, said a penalty is seldom imposed.
"A lot of the problem is that the public is not aware of what is allowable," said Lt. Richard I. Stone of the Fairfax County fire marshall's office. "If they would call us and tell us what they have and where they got (the fireworks) we can tell them whether they ate legal."
Stone said his departments has confiscated about $3,000 worth of illegal fireworks including cherry bombs, roman candles, bottle rockets and m-80s. that were distributed to some drug stores under the Herbis D label.
"Most of the stuff has been recovered, but we did miss a few of the packages that were sold," Stone said.
A spokesman for one of the chains that received some of the illegal fireworks said "we had a minor problem in one store or two. We received merchandise in error from the supplier, but we have straightened the problem out."
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, the trade association for fireworks manufacturers cherry bombs, Silver Satutes and M-80s are the most easily available illegal devices. While these firecrackers are illegal in the Washington area, some officials said they were concerned about items being brought into the area from other states with less restrictive laws.
Insp. Thomas J. Townsend of the D.C. Fire Department said the District regularly inspect firework wholesalers and firework stands to make sure that the kind of fireworks, the type material used in them and their storage conforms to city laws.
"We have 75 firefighters who assist me in the inspection and so far during the past couple of days, we have had 25 violations. "Townsend said, "We do have a problem with fireworks. Last year during July 1 to July 6 we had 29 casualties, mostly burns, from improper or illegal use of fireworks. This year the situation will be better because we have more inspectors and we intend to crack down."