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Commissioner’s Bulletin # B-0029-01

June 22, 2001


Re: Fireworks Sales

The purpose of this bulletin is to advise all fireworks sellers and distributors, as well as local jurisdictions with enforcement authority over fireworks safety, of pertinent provisions of state law and rules of the Texas Department of Insurance (Department). This reminder is provided to all concerned parties to assist with the approaching seasonal sales period. It also addresses the indoor sale of fireworks.

The State Fire Marshal, through Department rules, has adopted NFPA 101 (the Life Safety Code, 28 Texas Administrative Code §§34.301 - 34.304) as the standard for State Fire Marshal Inspections pursuant to authority of the Government Code §417.008, regarding right of entry and examination and correction of dangerous conditions. The Life Safety Code contains standards governing construction, protection, and occupancy features necessary to minimize danger from fire. It establishes minimum criteria for the design of facility exits so as to permit the prompt escape of occupants. The Life Safety Code also is applicable in all unincorporated areas of the state and incorporated cities that have not adopted a comparable fire safety ordinance. Fireworks distributors and other permit holders and local jurisdictions should familiarize themselves with all provisions of the Life Safety Code, particularly Chapters 36 and 37, which are applicable to retail sales locations.

Any location which has on premises more than 500 cases of fireworks, regardless of whether or not held for immediate sale, must comply with 28 Texas Administrative Code §34.823, which concerns storage of Fireworks 1.4G devices. These rules apply regardless of whether the fireworks are in boxes or on display. This means, among other things, that the store or facility must: (1) be a minimum distance of 50 feet from a highway, passenger railway, or inhabited building; (2) have fencing in compliance with §34.821(a)(1) or have personnel on the premises 24 hours per day and lighted at night or have a security alarm system; (3) have no windows, and any other openings shall be situated to prevent the rays of the sun from coming in contact with or shining through glass directly upon fireworks stored in the facility. Because of the spacing requirement, an indoor sales location in a multi-tenant property (for example, a shopping center) is thus prohibited from having more than 500 cases on the premises.

In addition, §34.818(f)(1)(B) requires indoor sales locations to be "designed so as to prevent customers from handling fireworks." This precludes grocery store and similar type sales where customers can handle the merchandise at will. Merchandise must be kept separate from customer traffic areas, and sales staff must provide customers with items. The retailer should take positive steps to ensure that satisfactory separation is maintained at all times, by using appropriate materials and design in constructing barriers between customers and fireworks products, by instructing employees in maintaining required barriers, and by posting signs inside the building.

The Life Safety Code requires a minimum of 36" clear aisle width in retail sales buildings. If wheeled carts are being used to shop for items, the aisle width should be 36" plus the longest (length or width) dimension of the cart. In the event that emergency evacuation is required, abandoned carts could create an unacceptable impediment to prompt exiting of the building.

If a dangerous situation is determined to exist due to the condition of a fireworks sales facility or its location (that is, one that is liable to cause or promote fire or create danger for firefighters, occupants, or other buildings or structures), the State Fire Marshal has the authority to issue an order closing the facility pursuant to Government Code §417.008, regarding right of entry and examination and correction of dangerous conditions. The Department anticipates proposing for comment, within the next few months, additional rules that would contain more specific requirements and prohibitions on fireworks sales, particularly with regard to indoor and multi-tenant occupancies.

For additional information on this bulletin, you may contact Mark Redlitz, P.E. Director of Licensing and Enforcement, State Fire Marshal's office, Texas Department of Insurance, at 512-305-7927.

Jose Montemayor

Commissioner of Insurance

For more information, contact: