FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks displays. But along with all the festivities are plenty of visits to emergency rooms — especially during July.
Across the nation in 2019, at least 12 people died and about 10,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
While the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, thousands were from small firecrackers and sparklers.
More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.
On a typical Fourth of July, fireworks account for two out of every five reported fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Each year, fireworks cause on average 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires resulting in thousands of injuries.
The National Safety Council advises everyone to stay away from all consumer fireworks and to only enjoy fireworks at a public display conducted by professionals.
Following are some fireworks that are legal for consumers to purchase and use in some states — not on post. However, just because they are legal doesn’t mean they are safe.
Every year, young children can be found along parade routes and at festivals with sparklers in hand, but they are a lot more dangerous than most people think. Parents don’t realize they burn at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet.
These small rockets are attached to a stick, lit by a fuse and typically fired from a bottle. Teens have been known to have bottle rocket wars, firing them at one another and causing chest, head and eye injuries.
Physicians at Vanderbilt Eye Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have seen so many eye injuries caused by bottle rockets they conducted a study they hope will lead to better education and legislative enhancements on fireworks safety.
“The majority of the children (in the study) ended up with reduced vision, and probably half of those were deemed legally blind,” said Dr. Franco Recchia, associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Vanderbilt.
Firecrackers are designed to explode on the ground. They are often linked together by one long fuse and explode in a series. They are designed to be very noisy, but they also can cause burns and other serious injuries.
Roman candles eject multiple exploding shells from a tube the user holds in his or her hand. There have been numerous reports of children losing fingers, getting severe burns and other injuries, which are sometimes caused when the device gets jammed.
If fireworks are legal to buy where you live and you choose to use them, be sure to follow the following safety tips:
— Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
— Never allow young children to handle fireworks.
— Older children should use them only under close adult supervision.
— Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
— Never light fireworks indoors.
— Only use fireworks away from people, houses and flammable material.
— Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting.
— Never ignite devices in a container.
— Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
— Soak unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
— Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire.
Good advice when it comes to fireworks is to grab a blanket and a patch of lawn, kick back and let the experts handle the show. Come out for Fort Leonard Wood’s Independence Day Celebration. It starts at 3 p.m. July 4 at Gammon Field. Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. For more information, visit https://leonardwood.armymwr.com.
As a reminder, Fort Leonard Wood Regulation 420-2 prohibits the sale, storage, transportation, possession or use of fireworks of any description on the installation.
On behalf of the Directorate of Emergency Services, we wish you a safe Independence Day. For more summer safety information, call the fire prevention section at 573.596.0886.