Every July Fourth, Americans gather at parades, barbecues and other events to celebrate our nation’s independence. Traditionally, fireworks are the highlight of these celebrations. All too often, though, the night ends badly due to someone’s carelessness. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.
It was early in the evening and my friends and I were searching for something fun to do. We sent out text messages inviting other friends to come over to the house and eventually had a large crowd. So now what? We decided small explosives were the answer, so several of us piled into the car and headed to the nearest fireworks stand.
The fireworks at this particular stand were relatively inexpensive, which meant we were going to get a lot of bang for our buck. Almost $500 later, it was time to head back to the party. We decided our neighborhood wasn’t a good place to set off our stash, so we moved to a nearby field. (Author’s note: There was no alcohol involved in the gathering up to this point.) A friend pointed out that the field grass was really dry, so this also wasn’t the best location for our celebration. Regrettably, “management” gathered and decided we’d stay, and a small clay pit in the field would be our launching pad.
We started with the smaller fireworks, but the crowd was eager for us to bring out the big guns. This is where our problems started. The weather on this particular night was clear, but the wind was beginning to pick up. At one point, the fireworks sparked a small grass fire, but we easily extinguished it. Afterward, we should have used risk management, picked up our fireworks and found a safer location, but, once again, management decided we would stay.
The next few rounds of fireworks went off without a hitch. Then a friend lit a firework that looked like a big sparkler. The sparks from the firework started another grass fire that quickly grew larger than anything we’d previously encountered. We tried to douse the flames with bottled water, but the fire continued to spread. To make matters worse, there were houses just 200 feet away. Long story short, my night ended with the sound of sirens, a burnt jacket, an ashy face and two lungs filled with smoke.
Fortunately, no one was injured and no property was damaged. Thanks to our carelessness, though, our night was ruined. We should have heeded our friend’s advice and moved to another location, preferably one free of weeds, shrubs, grass and other flammable materials. We also should have ensured we had a garden hose handy in case an errant firework sparked a fire.
Remember, when you play with fire, you might get burned. This Independence Day, use common sense and think about what you are doing. Fireworks are fun, but they can be dangerous if not used properly.
To keep your Independence Day celebration safe, the National Council on Fireworks Safety reminds shooters of consumer fireworks of these important safety tips:
• Only use fireworks outdoors.
• Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
• Never give fireworks to young children.
• Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
• Always have a bucket of water, or water hose, nearby.
• Remember, alcohol and fireworks do not mix!
Sparklers may seem like a safe alternative to other types of fireworks. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 16 percent of all consumer fireworks injuries are caused by sparklers burning hands and legs, with the majority of these injuries occurring to young children. Keep the following safety tips in mind when using sparklers:
• Always remain standing while using sparklers.
• Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers.
• Never hold, or light, more than one sparkler at a time.
• Always wear closed‐toe shoes when using sparklers.
• The sparkler wire remains hot long after the flame has gone out. Be sure to drop the spent sparklers directly in a bucket of water.
• Never hand a lighted sparkler to another person. Give them an unlit sparkler and then light it.
• Always stand at least six feet from another person while using sparklers.
• Never throw sparklers.