Getting Blown Away by Fireworks Hazards
By Sandra Dalton, Staff Writer
Fireworks are in integral part of Independence Day celebrations. They are a lot of fun until a firecracker explodes in your fingers, or a spark from a fountain sets your house on fire. For many families, purchasing and setting off fireworks together is a time-honored tradition that continues even through fireworks bans.
According to the federal government's 2014 Fireworks Annual Report, fireworks were responsible for at least 11 deaths and 10,500 injuries in the U.S. last year. 67% of those injuries occurred around the Fourth of July.
- Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 35 percent of the estimated 2014 injuries.
- Nearly half of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were to individuals younger than 20 years of age.
- Children 5 to 9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries (5.2 injuries per 100,000 people).
- There were an estimated 1,400 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers and 100 with bottle rockets.
- There were an estimated 1,400 emergency department-treated injuries associated with firecrackers
"One key reason for such severe burns is that even the tip of a sparkler burns at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to produce third-degree burns. Many people are unaware of the dangers that even simple sparklers can cause. Anything that lights on fire, that burns or explodes, or sparks has the potential for causing injury," says Kevin Foster, M.D., FACS, Chief of Burn Services at the Arizona Burn Center.
Fireworks pose some obvious dangers for those using them, but they can also hurt bystanders and people who are not involved in the celebration. Of the 11 people who were killed by fireworks last year, four were killed in house fires caused by fireworks and it is believed that several of those victims were not even using fireworks.
The high-powered "salute" rocket, a tightly compressed, 3-inch tube of gunpowder, rice and cardboard designed to create a massive boom during a Fourth of July fireworks show, costs about $1.50. But when fired into a crowd of horrified spectators during the 2007 show in Vienna, Virginia, it suddenly cost two Fairfax County families, and a Pennsylvania fireworks company, much more.
A Fairfax County jury decided that the company, Schaefer Pyrotechnics, should pay Kathryn Hollis $4.75 million for the injuries and financial damage she suffered after a salute shell exploded next to her on Waters Field that night, with her 3-year-old son, Max, on her lap. Hollis' son suffered A traumatic brain injury from the blast. The jury's verdict came after a civil trial of more than three weeks and deliberations that lasted 10 hours over two days.
Fireworks Safety Tips
If you plan to use fireworks at home, consider these safety tips:
- Read the label, and follow the directions.
- Only use fireworks outdoors. That includes sparklers.
- Do not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
- Never point, aim, or throw fireworks at a person, animal, or structure.
- Do not alter purchased fireworks, or try to combine them for greater effect.
- Shoot fireworks one at a time.
- Keep everyone else back a safe distance away from the shooting area, and point your fireworks away from them.
- Keep a bucket of water right next to you when lighting fireworks.
- If possible, have a water hose and fire extinguisher nearby.
- Do not try to collect or relight a dud. If a firework does not go off immediately, wait 20 minutes, then douse it.
- Place all spent fireworks in the bucket of water to thoroughly douse before disposing of them.
If you have been injured by fireworks you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a lawyer near you.