This story was originally published on July 3, 2012.
Weather conditions make consumer fireworks more dangerous than usual
Check locally before setting off fireworks
Fireworks and hot temperatures can be a dangerous combination. In addition to harming themselves, people are also in danger of lighting up their entire neighborhoods.
“What people don’t realize is while they’re setting off fireworks and sparklers in hot, dry heat or wind, that fires can move very quickly, putting their neighborhood directly in threat,” said Mike Apicello, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
“Look for open, wide spaces to ignite fireworks, and stay away from fire fuels such as grass, which in this type of heat cure out really fast. And with the high winds, all it takes is an ignition, even in an urban environment. A bottle rocket on a shake roof would ignite a fire very rapidly,” he said.
In the event of high winds, drifting embers can easily start a fire, so if it’s too windy for you to safely ignite, it’s best to set the sparklers aside for another day.
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Apicello advises checking locally before you do anything, adding that fireworks are not allowed in national parks.
Each year, 230 people on average go to the emergency room in the weeks leading up to and after the Fourth of July, with the majority of those injuries including burns affecting hands and fingers, eyes, arms, legs, head and ears, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Firecrackers cause 20% of those injuries, and children between the ages of 5 and 9 and adults 25 to 44 are at the most risk of injury.
In 2015, 11,900 people were treated in the hospital for fireworks-related injuries, and children under the age of 15 accounted for 38% of those injuries, according to the CPSC. It also noted that 11 people were killed in 2014 and cited five recent deaths due to the inappropriate use of both legal and illegal fireworks.
Using fireworks inappropriately doesn’t just cause immediate harm, it can also affect others. In 2014, an elderly couple was killed in a house fire when a neighbor’s fireworks debris ignited their home.
Most of the time, these injuries happen because the fireworks ignite unexpectedly or because of inappropriate usage, the CPSC said. The agency’s injuries information breaks down the most dangerous types of fireworks and the damage they can cause. Hand, finger and facial injuries are the most common. A decapitation was reported in 2011.
Consumer fireworks cause an estimated 18,500 reported fires in the U.S. each year, according to a report by the National Fire Protection Association. Only one in four fires started by fireworks is even reported.
This doesn’t mean you should skip independent firework celebrations on your Independence Day (if they are legal in your state).
The National Weather Service has some tips to keep your party from ending up at the hospital or starting a fire. Though a lot of the tips seem to be common sense, they are listed because people have been injured after not observing them.
In dry areas:
• Obey local ordinances regulating the sale and use of fireworks.
• Use fireworks in a safe area, away from dry fields, forests and buildings.
• Carefully follow label directions, and always have adult supervision.
• Light one firework at a time, and handle lighters safely.
• Never point or throw fireworks at people or animals.
• Keep water and garden tools nearby. Wet towels can extinguish small flames.
• After the celebration ends, observe the area where fireworks were used to make sure everything is safe before leaving.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission also offers tips:
• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Parents may not realize that young children can suffer injuries from sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals.
• Always have an adult closely supervise activities if older children are allowed to handle fireworks.
• Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, because this is often a sign that they were made for professional displays and that they could be dangerous to consumers.
• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of a fire or other mishap.
• Light fireworks one at a time, and then move back quickly.
• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
• After fireworks complete their burning, douse them with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding them. Doing this could prevent a trash fire.
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And from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:
• Use fireworks outdoors only.
• Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter them or combine them.
• Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
• Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter, and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”
• Only people over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
• Do not use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives; they can kill you. Report illegal explosives to your fire or police department.