Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Don't Get Burned this Fourth

Don't Get Burned this Fourth


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 texted our 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. Our neighborhood wasn’t a good place to set off our stash, so we moved to a nearby field. A friend pointed out that the field grass was 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 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 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. For more information on fireworks safety, including posters, social media info graphics and safety tip sheets, visit the National Fire Protection Association website at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Seasonal-fire-causes/Fireworks.

Did You Know?

A new report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) finds a significant upward trend in fireworks-related injuries. Between 2006 and 2021, injuries with fireworks climbed 25% in the U.S., according to CPSC estimates. Last year, at least nine people died, and an estimated 11,500 were injured in incidents involving fireworks.

The CPSC’s report shows:

  • Of the nine U.S. deaths, six were associated with firework misuse, one death was associated with a mortar launch malfunction and two incidents were associated with unknown circumstances.
  • There were an estimated 11,500 emergency room-treated injuries involving fireworks in 2021 — down from the spike (15,600) experienced in , during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many public displays were canceled.
  • An estimated 8,500 fireworks-related injuries (or 74% of the total estimated fireworks-related injuries in ) occurred during the one-month special study period between June 18 and July 18 last year.
  • Young adults 20 to 24 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries in .
  • In , there were an estimated 1,500 emergency department-treated injuries associated with firecrackers and 1,100 involving sparklers.
  • In , the parts of the body most often injured by fireworks were hands and fingers (an estimated 31% of injuries) along with head, face and ears (an estimated 21%).
  • About 32% of the emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries in were for burns.
  • In , approximately 31% of selected and tested fireworks products were found to contain noncompliant components, including fuse violations, the presence of prohibited chemicals and pyrotechnic materials overload.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission

  • 25 June 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 314
  • Comments: 0