1.3G Explosives Formerly known as Class B special fireworks. Items classified as 1.3G explosives are display fireworks.

1.4G Explosives Formerly known as Class C common fireworks. Items classified as 1.4G explosives are consumer fireworks intended for use by the general public.

Aerial Shells A fireworks device designed to be launched into the air for use in a fireworks display.

Aerial Shell A cartridge containing pyrotechnic composition, a burst charge, and an internal time fuse or module, that is propelled into the air from a mortar.

American Pyrotechnics Association Trade association for the fireworks industry.

Assortment A collection of fireworks items, generally consisting of fountains, sparklers, rockets, and firecrackers.

Black Powder Material found in fireworks. This material can be used as a propellant charge, to produce sound, as a constituent of other compositions, or in the ignition fuse or timing system of fireworks. Also known as gun powder.

Bombette An exploding star, usually ejected from a roman candle or fountain. Bombettes are limited to a maximum charge of 130 milligrams of flash powder in legal consumer fireworks.

Bottle Rocket A small rocket that is approximately the size of a standard firecracker, one and one-half inches long, with a thin stick attached to it that is approximately 12 inches in length. Bottle rockets can contain whistle effects and may contain a report (loud bang).

Bouquet Fountains fired in groups.

Bouquet Pattern A bouquet patter is a floral-shaped aerial pattern of stars, usually in a spherical shape (see the definition for peony).


Break An individual burst from an aerial shell, generally producing either a visual effect (stars) or noise (salute).

Brocade A spider like effect in the sky, much like fine lace. The brocade effect is generally a silver tail effect, and is brighter than the willow or tiger tail effect. Most brocade effects use glitter to produce the long brocade tails.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Federal agency which regulates the licensing and storage of display fireworks. This agency monitors the importation, manufacture, distribution, and storage of display fireworks.

Cake A chain-fused firework that propels a series of aerial shell, comet or mine effects into the air from collectively attached tubes.

Chain Fusing A series of two or more aerial shells fused to fire in sequence from a single ignition.

Chemical Composition All pyrotechnic and explosive composition contained in a fireworks device. Inert materials (such as clay used for plugs or organic matter used for density) are not considered to be part of chemical composition.

Chrysanthemum A flower-like aerial pattern, usually resulting from a cake or mortar.

Comet A pellet of composition which is propelled from a mortar or shell and produces a long tailed effect. Large comets are constructed much like aerial display shells, with attached lift charge ready for loading into mortars.

Consumer Fireworks Also known as 1.4G fireworks. Fireworks that are intended for use by the consumer. The permitted usage of consumer fireworks varies by state. Examples are fountains, cones, and firecrackers.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Federal agency which regulates consumer 1.4G fireworks.

Crackle Effect A fireworks effects that sounds like hundred of snaps or crackles, usually accompanied by an aerial gold lace visual effect.

Crossette A type of comet that breaks into multiple comets, usually forming a cross shape.

Dahlia A shell that produces a starfish like shape.

Day Time Effect A type of fireworks that can be enjoyed better during the day time than the night time. Includes smoke items and parachute items.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal agency which controls the transport of all hazardous materials including fireworks. This organization also assigns all legal commercial fireworks with an EX Number.

Discharge Site The area immediately surrounding the fireworks mortars used for an outdoor fireworks display.

Display Fireworks (formerly known as special fireworks) Large fireworks articles designed to produce visible or audible effects for entertainment purposes by combustion, deflagration, or detonation.

Display Site The immediate area where a fireworks display is conducted, including the discharge site, the fallout area, and the required separation distance from mortars to spectator viewing areas, but not spectator viewing areas or vehicle parking areas.

Dud Any device in which the fuse or igniter fails to ignite the main pyrotechnic charge. The term, dud, is reported to have originated as an acronym for dangerous unexploded device.

Electrical Firing Unit A device that provides and controls the electric current used to ignite fireworks during a display.

Electrical Firing Unit, Automatic A panel or box that operates automatically to provide the source of electric current used to ignite electric matches.

Electrical Firing Unit, Handheld A small, handheld unit with manually operated switches that control the flow of electric current to electric matches attached to fireworks devices.

Electrical Firing Unit, Manual A panel or box with manually operated switches that control the flow of electric current to electric matches attached to fireworks devices.

Electrical Ignition A technique used to ignite fireworks using a source of electric current.

Electric Match An electric device that contains a small amount of pyrotechnic material that ignites when current flows through the device.

EX Number The identification number assigned by DOT to a commercial fireworks device. All legal commercial fireworks must have an EX number.

Explosive (Technical Definition) Any material that is capable of undergoing a self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reaction at a rate that is sufficient to produce substantial pressures on their surroundings, thus causing physical damage. Explosives fall into 2 classes, detonating and deflagerating.

Explosive Composition Any chemical compound or mixture, the primary purpose of which is to function by explosion, producing an audible effect.

Falling Leaves A beautiful aerial effect that consists of glowing embers that tumble slowly in the air, flickering back and forth as they fall back to earth.

Fallout Area The designated area in which hazardous debris is intended to fall after a pyrotechnic device is fired.

Finale A rapidly fired sequence (barrage) of aerial fireworks, typically fired at the end of a display.

Fire (verb) To ignite pyrotechnics by using an electric match, electrical current, or some other means.

Firecracker A fireworks item containing flash powder and wrapped in paper with a fuse attached. When the fuse is lit, it burns down inside the paper until it reaches the flash powder. The deflagration of the flash powder results in a loud bang. Legal consumer firecrackers are limited to a maximum of 50 milligrams of flash powder.

Firefly A stroboscopic tail effect that consists of many distinct bright flashes of light.

Fireworks Any composition or device for the purpose of producing a visible or an audible effect by combustion, deflagration, or detonation, and that meets the definition of consumer fireworks or display fireworks.

Fireworks Display A presentation of fireworks for a public or private gathering.

Fish An aerial effect that looks like a swarm of objects squirming though the air. This effect usually lasts only a few seconds. Fish are actually a type of fuse that propels itself through the air, creating a swimming effect.

Flash Powder Mixtures which contain powdered aluminum or a magnesium/aluminum alloy which, when ignited, can result in a violent explosion and flash.

Floral Pattern An aerial pattern that resembles a flower with points of light that streak outward from the center of the break.

Fountain Device that projects a spray of sparks.

Fuse An item resembling a string or wire that is used to light a fireworks device.

Girandola Special wheel which rises rapidly in the air while emitting a spray of sparks and, sometimes, a whistle.

Glitter A tail effect that contains flashes of light and small explosive bursts lasting several seconds.

Ground Display Piece A pyrotechnic device that functions on the ground (as opposed to an aerial shell that functions in the air) and that includes fountains, wheels, and set pieces.

Gun Powder See Black Powder

Hangfire A fuse or pyrotechnic ignition composition which continues to glow or burn slowly instead of burning at its normal speed. Such a fuse may suddenly resume burning at its normal rate after a long delay. If the hangfire goes completely out (is extinguished), it is termed a misfire.

Hazardous Debris Any debris produced or expelled by the functioning of a pyrotechnic device that is capable of causing personal injury or unpredicted property damage.

High Level Fireworks Devices propelled into the air, usually aerial shells.

Igniter Also known as an electric match. A device used for the electrical ignition of fireworks and pyrotechnic articles.

Illegal Explosives Usually unlabelled, these devices exceed the federal maximum explosive charge allowed. Some examples are M-80s, M-100s, and silver salutes. These devices are extremely dangerous and should be avoided. Some members of the public and media incorrectly refer to these devices as fireworks.

Instantaneous Fuse Also known as Quickmatch. Black match that is encased in a loose-fitting paper or plastic sheath to make it burn extremely rapidly. Quickmatch is used for aerial shells and simultaneous ignition of a number of pyrotechnic devices such as lances in a ground display piece.

Jumping Jacks Similar in appearance to a firecracker, jumping jacks spin rapidly and emit red and green sparks.

Labels All legal consumer explosives have mandatory labeling requirements. Included on these labels should be the manufacturer's name and address, cautions, and directions for use.

Lance A thin cardboard tube packed with color-producing pyrotechnic composition used to construct ground display pieces.

Lift Charge The composition that propels (lifts) the pyrotechnic device into the air.

Loader(s) An assistant(s) who loads or reloads aerial shells, comets, or mines into mortars.

Low Level Fireworks (Also Ground-to-Air Fireworks) Any of a class of fireworks devices that either perform below approximately 200 feet (60 m) or begin their display at ground level and rise to complete their effect. Some examples of low level fireworks are comets, mines, roman candles, and many consumer fireworks.

Manual Ignition A technique used to ignite fireworks using a handheld ignition source such as a fusee or portfire.

Mine A device containing multiple pyrotechnic effects that are simultaneously ignited and dispersed into the air from mortar or tube.

Missile In fireworks, a missile is a sky rocket that does not have a stick for guidance. Instead, it may rotate to give it some stability as it lifts off, or may be shot from a tube (like Saturn Missile Batteries).

Mortar A tube from which certain aerial devices are fired into the air.

Mortar Rack Sturdy wooden or metal frames used to support mortars in an upright position usually above ground.

Mortar Trough Above ground structure filled with sand or similar material into which mortars are positioned.

Multi-Shot Aerial This is another name for a cake or repeater.

NFPA Standard 1123 Code for Fireworks Display

NFPA Standard 1124 Code for the Manufacture, Transportation, and Storage of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles

NFPA Standard 1126 Standard for the Use of Pyrotechnics Before a Proximate Audience

National Council on Fireworks Safety A non-profit group that promotes the safe enjoyment of consumer fireworks.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Organization which provides several standards that outline recommendations for the manufacture, storage, transportation, and execution of fireworks.

Novelty A device containing small amounts of pyrotechnic and/or explosive composition but does not fall under the category of consumer fireworks. Such devices produce limited visible or audible effects. Examples are snakes, tanks, poppers, and snappers.

Palm Tree An aerial effect that produces a gold or silver stem as the shell rises into the sky (known as a rising tail), followed by a brocade or willow effect that creates palm fronds. It resembles a gold or silver palm tree in the sky.

Parachute A paper projectile that is expelled from a mortar tube either as a single-shot item, or as a multi-shot effect in a cake.

Peony An aerial effect that looks like a spherical ball of colored lights in the sky. A very common aerial effect on most fireworks displays.

Pistil A ball of stars in the center of another ball of stars. Another way to describe this effect is a small peony inside a larger peony.

Punk A punk is a bamboo stick with a brown coating that burns slowly. These look identical to incense sticks, but do not have a distinctive aromatic effect like incense does. Punks are generally used to light consumer fireworks. Another way to light fireworks is with an instant-on propane torch or a road flare. Because fuses are known to spit fire occasionally, lighting fireworks with matches is strongly discouraged.

Pyrotechnic Device Any device containing pyrotechnic materials and capable of producing a special effect.

Pyrotechnic Material A chemical mixture used in the entertainment industry to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration, or detonation.

Pyrotechnic Special Effect A special effect created through the use of pyrotechnic materials and devices.

Pyrotechnics Controlled exothermic chemical reactions that are timed to create the effects of heat, gas, sound, dispersion of aerosols, emission of visible electromagnetic radiation, or a combination of these effects to provide the maximum effect from the least volume.

Quickmatch Also known as an Instantaneous Fuse. Black match that is encased in a loose-fitting paper or plastic sheath to make it burn extremely rapidly. Quick match is used for aerial shells and for simultaneous ignition of a number of pyrotechnic devices, such as lances in a ground display piece.

Reloadable Aerial A reloadable aerial is an aerial mortar that includes one or more mortar tubes and several reloadable aerial shells. The shells are placed inside the mortar tube, a long quick-burning fuse is lit, and the item is fired into the sky. These items are consumer versions of the mortar-based fireworks used in commercial fireworks displays.

Report A component of an aerial display shell or mine. A report contains salute powder, a powerful pyrotechnic composition (usually flash powder) which explodes violently, producing a loud noise with the visual effect of a bright flash and smoke.

Rising Tail A rising tail is a gold or silver tail effect that is created when a shell is shot into the sky, similar to the trunk of a tree. Commonly used with palm tree shells.

Rocket A rocket is a tube-like pyrotechnic device made out of a paper tube that propels itself into the air in order to fly. There are many different kinds of rockets, including sky rockets, bottle rockets, and missiles. Please refer to these items for more information on rockets.

Roman Candle A chain-fused firework that propels a series of aerial shell, comet or mine effects into the air from a single tube.

Safety Cap A tube, closed at one end that is placed over the end of the fuse until intended ignition to protect it from damage and accidental ignition.

Safe and Sane This is a term for fireworks that do not have aerial effects or explode. Items that are classified as Safe and Sane include sparklers, snaps, smoke balls, fountains, snakes, and (in some cases) wheels. Items that are not classified as Safe and Sane include firecrackers, rockets, and cakes. Some States restrict legal fireworks to Safe and Sane items only.

Salute Fireworks designed to produce an explosive sound as its primary effect.

Salute Powder A pyrotechnic composition that makes an explosive sound when ignited and constitutes the sole pyrotechnic effect of a salute.

Shell A shell is an aerial item that is fired into the sky. It generally consists of a fuse, a lift bag, and a paper ball filled with stars and burst media. The fuse lights the lift bag on the bottom of the shell propelling it into the sky. At the same time, an internal time fuse is triggered and at the right time the paper shell bursts with all of its stars lit. The type of stars contained inside the shell determines the effect the shell produces in the sky.

Snakes Snakes are hard pellets that are lit and produce a long carbon snake. The items are popular with kids; however the pellets can be poisonous and should not be accessible to young children.

Snaps Snaps are paper balls that are filled with a cap composition that goes BANG when they are thrown at something. Snaps are generally safe for most kids to use.

Sparkler A stick with a coating of pyrotechnic composition that creates sparks when lit. While sparklers are generally considered safe, they are responsible for over eighty percent of the injuries due to fireworks each year. This is because people throw the hot sparkler wires on the ground and other people step on them. If you use sparklers, please make sure you have a bucket of water handy to place the used sparkler wires in when the sparkler burns out.

Stars Fireworks materials that are compressed into small cubes or round pellets.

Strobe A strobe is a blinking effect. When used in a shell with hundreds of strobe stars, the strobe effect looks like shimmering water in the sky. Strobes can be a variety of colors, including white, green, blue, and orange.

Theatrical Pyrotechnics Pyrotechnic devices for professional use in the entertainment industry. Similar to consumer fireworks in chemical composition and construction but not intended for consumer use.

Tube A tube is another name for a mortar (see definition for mortar).

Willow An aerial effect that looks like a giant gold willow tree in the sky. A true willow effect has delicate golden trails that hang in the sky ten seconds or more.