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Concerns about wildfires drive sales of “safe and sane” fireworks

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Fireworks are stocked on shelves.

The term "safe and sane” refers to fireworks that are considered less likely to cause injury or start fires. Saul Loeb/Getty Images

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Massachusetts is the only state where you can’t legally buy consumer fireworks, despite the Independence Day tradition.

But a number of states, counties and cities are limiting what you can buy to “safe and sane” fireworks — in other words, those that don’t leave the ground. Those fireworks have been penetrating the market as wildfires become more prevalent and devastating.

The term “safe and sane” was popularized in the 1950s and ’60s to describe fireworks that were thought less likely to cause injury or start fires.

“Fountains, cones, whistler products, snake products,” said James Fuller, a fireworks safety expert at TNT Fireworks. He said what actually qualifies as safe and sane varies by location.

That category has grown popular amid wildfire concerns and for customers who are dealing with inflation, Fuller added. “They’re far, far cheaper devices, so your dollar for value goes a lot further.”

That said, traditional products still make up the majority of sales for fireworks companies like TNT.

Now, those safe and sane products “may be safer, but it’s still playing with fire,” said Jennifer Balch, a fire scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

She co-authored a study that found that 7,000 fires were started on July Fourth between 1992 and 2015.

“I really do think now’s the time to think about different ways to celebrate that don’t carry the risk of starting a wildfire.”

Her suggestion: a laser light show.

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