The Common Law

Fourth of July fireworks in Austin?

I live in Austin and am having people over for a Fourth of July weekend backyard barbecue. We want to shoot off some fairly innocent fireworks (bottle rockets). Is it legal? If not, is there anything on the firework front that we can do that is legal?

It is illegal to use or sell fireworks within the city of Austin. Don't plan to entertain your guests with fireworks if you live in Austin. The fireworks could start fires and the city tightens up on its enforcement of the fireworks ban around the Fourth of July holiday.

Austin generally follows the classification of fireworks as determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation. There are some Fourth of July items that the city allows because it does not consider them to be fireworks (as classified by the federal government). July Fourth-type items that are approved for use by the city of Austin include:

• wire sparklers

• snake, glow worms (produces a large, snakelike ash upon burning)

• snappers (small, paper-wrapped items that explode when dropped and make a small sound)

• party poppers (string is pulled from the device that produces sound)

Check out the City's website for a comprehensive list of what is and is not allowed.

My neighbor always gets drunk and lights a bunch of fireworks on Fourth of July. I think it's dangerous and a fire hazard. What can I do?

Call 311. It's important to not flood 911 with calls on fireworks violations. The city of Austin has a firework abatement plan designed to discourage fireworks usage in city limits. Once a call is received, police units can be dispatched to the scene. The Austin Fire Department will also have a presence on the streets over Fourth of July weekend. APD or the Fire Marshal's Office can issue citations for violating the fireworks ordinance. The city will take a particularly strong stance about prosecuting anyone responsible for starting fires that result from illegal firework use.

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The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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