Faux Fireworks: A Safe, Legal Alternative

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RENO, NV - Mere possession of fireworks is illegal in Washoe County.

It's been that way for years, but despite the risks and the danger of personal injury or setting fires, there is a persistent market out there for fireworks and here and there they are available for purchase in Nevada, mostly on Indian reservations..

For the most part, they are smuggled into our area and tonight in backyards scattered throughout the county they will be set off and area firemen will be kept busy.

"We've got it every year," says Reno Battalion Chief Tim Spencer. "It's just people trying to have fun, celebrating in their back yard, but they've got to know it's illegal and with the fire danger this year, Reno has adopted a zero tolerance policy."

With all this attention then, it was surprising to hear that fireworks or something like them were being sold, openly, here at a Reno Sam's Club.

What you'll find there is a big thousand piece collection. It looks impressive and possibly illegal, but is it? And are these really fireworks?

Spencer admits to a double take.

"When you showed me this thing, it certainly looked liked the kind of fireworks we're worried about."

The impression is intentional. The contents are certainly made to appeal to the outlaw lurking in many of us, closely resembling the real thing down to the caution labels.

"Probably a little misleading, probably a little bait and switch going on there," notes Spencer, "but it does say they are party poppers.

And they make noise, but they're legal and they won't start fires.

"I spoke to the fire marshal about these specifically," says Spencer. "They don't meet the explosive class 1.4 designation that illegal fireworks do, but don't shoot them in each other's faces because you can put an eye out with these things."

So, for those who can't celebrate the 4th without a little noise, there is an alternative. Grab a handful of these and pop away.

If you can forget you bought them openly and legally, you might even, for a moment, believe you're getting away with something, which, let's be honest, is part of the thrill.