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What are the rules on fireworks in Spain?

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The Local ([email protected])
What are the rules on fireworks in Spain?
What are the rules on fireworks in Spain? Photo: Rakicevic Nenad / Pexels

Fireworks are common in Spain during the Christmas and New Year period and as part of local 'fiestas', but there are some rules and potential fines you should know about.

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Over Christmas and New Year's Eve, as well as local festivals in Spain, from Valencia’s Fallas to Barcelona's La Mercè, it's very common to hear the distinctive sound of fireworks swooshing through the air as they light up the sky.

Often, these aren’t let off in public parks or back gardens, but in the street. At times it can even seem a little lawless, but there are rules.

Spain's firework rules

Spanish law on the manufacture, sale and distribution of fireworks incorporates a lot of the European legislation, but the first thing to understand is that like many things in Spain, the specific rules (and possible punishments) on their use can be municipal. That is to say, regulations on fireworks could be set on a town-by-town, or even event-by-event basis.

Categories

According to Real Decreto 563/2010, in the eyes of Spanish law there are four main types of fireworks and pyrotechnics available. They are:

  • Category 1: Very low-risk fireworks that produce insignificant noise level intended for use in delimited areas, including those intended for use in residential buildings.
  • Category 2: Low-risk and low-noise fireworks intended for outdoor use in delimited areas.
  • Category 3: Medium-risk fireworks intended for outdoor use in large areas with a noise level not harmful to human health.
  • Category 4: Highly dangerous fireworks intended for the exclusive use of experts and professional use, with a noise level that is not harmful to human health. 

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Though the rules can vary by region or municipality, there are some rules generally held nationwide that you should be aware of:

  • Official shops: you can only buy fireworks from officially regulated stores with a licence that have official markings to show they are in line with European Commission legislation. Only fireworks that comply with European rules may be placed on the market, distributed, sold or used in Spain.
  • Drunkenness: Though there doesn’t seem to be any specific legislation about using fireworks while under the influence of alcohol, which would no doubt be difficult to gauge or enforce, there are rules to try and make this eventually more unlikely. Shops are not allowed to sell fireworks to people who are visibly drunk or under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.
  • Underage: Similarly, according to the BOE, fireworks may not be sold to people under the age of 12 for Category 1 fireworks, 16 for Category 2, and 18 for Category 3.
  • Public places: Though events like Las Fallas often fire fireworks in the street, technically doing so in a public space is banned except at officially authorised events or festivals. Firework displays will have been arranged beforehand with the town hall and safety measures put in place. 
  • Broken/faulty fireworks: when using any fireworks or firecrackers, it is forbidden to manipulate them in any way, or to use them if they are broken or show visible signs of damage.
  • Children: Any children under the age of 18 who want to handle fireworks, such as the classic sparkler, must always be supervised by a responsible adult. 
  • Safe distance: It seems common sense, but the Spanish government also offers detailed guidelines on what constitutes a safe distance from which to view fireworks, depending on the size, strength, weight and angle of the device. You can find them here.
  • Safety zones: Similarly, ​​for public firework displays a ‘safety zone’ must be established and not include or be alongside, according to the law, “hospitals, clinics, residential homes, homes, police stations, emergency centres, or any other buildings, structures or communication routes which, due to their particular sensitivity to risk, are susceptible to accidents affecting the safety of the population. Likewise, if the show takes place during school hours, there must be no educational centres.”

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Fines

So, what happens if you break the law? If you don’t follow the recommendations outlined above, you could be given a fine (una multa) of anything from €600 to €30,000 depending on the severity of the rule breaking and the extent to which your actions affected or damaged private property.

The top fines generally go to people who illegally manufacture fireworks and endanger the public, as well as those who tinker, or manipulate, the devices to make them more powerful, whereas rule-breaking classed as 'minor infringements' are punishable by fines of up to €3,000.

As mentioned before, though there are guidelines at the national level these are generally aligned with pre-existing European legislation and focus mostly on the manufacturing, importation and distribution of fireworks, whereas the actual rules and penalties for using them are delegated to the regions and municipalities.

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That’s why fireworks can only be used in certain public places at certain times on certain days, often public holidays or celebrations specific to that town.

However, if you've been in Valencia during Las Fallas, for example, you'll know that these rules aren't always strictly enforced.

Having clearer and specific rules that explain when fireworks can be used in private homes and spaces in Spain without issue could help with this.

If in doubt, it’s always best to check the local regulations with your town hall - the ayuntamiento - and to enjoy with care.

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