Fireworks are a major part of most July 4th celebrations.  However, every Independence Day, celebrations are marred when people use consumer fireworks and get hurt!

Despite the dangers of fireworks, many people seem to forget the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death. More and more municipalities are making consumer fireworks illegal.  If you want to watch fireworks, go to commercial displays.  In our area, there are several events that offer amazing displays.

“But, I don’t want to fight the crowds,” you say.  “I want to have my own celebration with friends and family at home.”   Many of us grew up with fireworks, and we think it is perfectly safe to shoot off a few bottle rockets or light up a Roman candle.  That is simply not the case.

“Safe and sane fireworks don’t exist,” Judy Comoletti, NFPA’s Division Manager of Public Education. “When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond.”  In addition, Comoletti says, “Fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs. The few seconds of pleasure those fireworks may bring are not worth the risk of injury, permanent scarring, or even death.”

Her statements are nothing new.  Every year, fire safety experts urge people not to use consumer fireworks, and every year, people choose to ignore these warnings!  Here are some hard facts that might change your mind about picking up firecrackers at a roadside stand.

  • In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2013, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for fireworks related injuries; 55% of 2014 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 38% were to the head.
  • The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 0-4, followed by children 10-14.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

Homegrown fireworks displays pose a risk to everyone present, not just the person who is in charge.  If you choose to do your own, you may think you are the only person who is in harm’s way, but bystanders can also be injured.  Those injuries can range from minor burns to loss of fingers, major burns, scarring and even permanent hearing loss and blindness.  Jody Eder-Zdechlik is one such bystander.  Her family was celebrating Independence Day when one of her relatives put a bottle rocket into a pop bottle, lit it and tipped it.  The rocket shot directly into her eye, permanently damaging it.  She was only two years old.  She says she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Just an innocent bystander, but in the direct path of the bottle rocket.”

The bottom line?  There is no “safe” way to use consumer fireworks.  If you want to enjoy a safe and happy holiday this July 4th, go to one of the local commercial displays, and celebrate your right to watch fireworks while being safe this year!

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