4th of July Fire Highlights Dangers of Fireworks
The sparkler-ignited fire that did significant damage to a Dracut home late on the night of July 4/early on the morning of July 5 came as a shock to many. Though we all know that fireworks can be dangerous and occasionally start fires, few expect to be driven from their homes by a fire ignited by sparklers tossed into the garbage earlier in the evening.
Fire officials wish people had a greater understanding of these risks. Dracut Fire Chief Richard Patterson told the Lowell Sun that sparklers burn at temperatures in excess of 1,800 degrees. That means they can cause serious burns and can ignite fires. It also means they remain hot enough to start a fire in a garbage can, pile of debris, dry leaves, or many other environments long after they’ve burned out.
Of course, sparklers aren’t the most dangerous type of firework, and this incident was one of many.
Firework Injuries in the U.S.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2021 Fireworks Annual Report, about 11,500 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for firework-related injuries during 2021. About 8,500 (74%) of these injuries occurred between June 18 and July 18.
Nine people were killed by fireworks in non-professional settings.
Who Gets Injured by Fireworks?
Firework injuries can happen to anyone. But, certain groups are more likely to be injured by fireworks than others. For example:
- Males are more likely than females to be injured by fireworks–about 60% of victims were men and boys
- Adults aged 25-44 account for the largest share of injuries, at about 32%
- Children under the age of 15 are the next-most-likely to suffer firework injuries, making up about 29% of all injuries in this category
More specifically, the group accounting for the largest number of emergency room visits was adults aged 20-24. The second largest was children aged 5-9.
What Types of Injuries are Most Common?
About 32% of firework injuries were burns. Contusions and lacerations are also common. The parts of the body most often injured are:
- Hands and fingers (31%)
- Head, face, and ears (21%)
- Legs (15%)
- Eyes (14%)
- Trunk/other areas (10%)
- Arms (8%)
While most firework injury victims are treated and released, about 15% were either admitted or transferred to other hospitals for further treatment.
What Types of Fireworks Cause Injuries?
Of course, any type of firework can cause injury. In the period from June 18 to July 18 of 2021, 1,500 injuries were caused by firecrackers. Some of these firecrackers were illegal, but hundreds were the small firecrackers you might think of as harmless. The next most common cause of firework injuries was sparklers, with 1,100 injuries requiring emergency room treatment in that one month. 500 injuries were caused by rockets, including 200 bottle rocket injuries.
Sparklers were by far the most common cause of firework injury to children under five, accounting for more than half of all injuries in that age group. Firecrackers took the lead among kids 5-14 and adults aged 25-64.
Preventing Firework Injuries
The National Safety Council (NSC) offers these tips for keeping yourself and your family safe:
- Never use illegal fireworks
- Never let young children use fireworks, and carefully supervise older children if you allow them to use fireworks
- Never light fireworks indoors or in a container, or hold a lighted firework in your hands
- Wear protective eyewear
- Never point fireworks at another person
- Keep fireworks away from houses and flammable materials
- If a firework doesn’t work, don’t try to light it again
- Never light more than one firework at a time
- Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergency
- Soak used fireworks in water for a few hours before disposing of them
Who is Liable for Firework Injuries?
Who bears responsibility for injuries or property damage caused by fireworks depends to a great degree on the specific circumstances. For example, a person (or entity) who negligently shoots off fireworks and injures another person or damages property will likely be responsible for the damage. That’s generally true whether the injury is caused by a neighbor shooting off a bottle rocket or the professional running your local Country Club’s fireworks show sets up too close to the crowd and injures someone.
An adult who gave fireworks to children or left children unsupervised with fireworks may be responsible for the damage they cause.
The manufacturer of a firework or component of the firework may be liable. But, the manufacturer isn’t automatically responsible simply because the accident involved their product. They may be responsible if the firework was defective, or is a consumer product that didn’t come with adequate warnings or instructions.
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