This Fourth of July will be the state’s first under a new fireworks law that allows residents to legally shoot off bigger, louder and more dangerous displays than have been allowed for the last 80 years.
It’s a change that brings with it the potential for more injuries — and that has local authorities concerned. In a 6 ABC story, Easton Fire Chief John Bast told a reporter “A lot of the injuries [from fireworks accidents] aren’t so much burn injuries but they are traumatic injuries. And when kids get a hold of them, or people are using them and they’re drinking or under the influence, accidents are bound to happen.”
Sadly, fireworks injuries are a part of every Fourth of July, and teenage boys are most at risk. According to the Consumer Products Safety Division, about 11,100 people were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2016, and at least four people were killed. Of the injuries, about 7,600 — well over half — came during the one-month period bookending the holiday (June 18-July 18).
During 2017’s Fourth celebrations, there were also numerous fireworks accidents across the country — including at least one death. And the CPSD says 2015 was the worst year for fireworks-related injuries in more than a decade.
The most injured body parts are hands and fingers, with eyes, faces and ears coming in second. More than 50 percent of the injuries are burns.
Fireworks are also responsible for “an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires … [including] an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage,” says the National Fire Protection Agency.
It’s not just fireworks, though — sparklers, available almost anywhere and considered by many as a “safe” alternative, burn at a temperature of about 2,000 degrees — as hot as a blowtorch, and hot enough to burn certain metals, not to mention skin.
This year, take precautions to ensure that your Fourth of July celebration is injury free by following a few tips from the CPSD — and check out the video below from the National Fire Protection Agency.
• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers.
• 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.
• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
• Light fireworks one at a time, 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 the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
We at Lehigh County Authority wish you a safe, fun-filled Fourth of July holiday – and hope that you leave the fireworks to the pros!