Fourth of July Safety: Even legal fireworks (including sparklers) can be dangerous

July 1, 2019 | 4:36 pm


As the sun starts to set on Fourth of July, Kern County streets start to shine bright with multi-colored fountains of light and flashes. But a celebration of our nation’s independence can turn tragic quickly without proper fireworks safety measures.

In fact, did you know about 11,000 people are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries each year. And in the month surrounding July 4, our nation sees about 200 fireworks injuries per day, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks: serious burns, eye injuries, structure fires, and even death.

In 2017, for example, eight people died in our country and over 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents. Of those, 50% of the injuries were to children and young adults under the age of 20. While the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, an estimated 1,200 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Injuries to people aside, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires and 300 vehicle fires.

Even sparklers, popular among young children, can be dangerous — much more than most people think. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals, and can quickly ignite clothing. Many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. In fact, sparklers account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries, and nearly half of injuries for children under 5 years old, according to the National Safety Council. Alternatives include glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals. They may be legal in Kern County, but they are not necessarily safe.

But if you do take part and celebrate the Fourth of July with legal fireworks, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Only use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, and away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Never light them indoors.
  • Never use illegal fireworks. Plus, fire departments in both Bakersfield and Kern County hand out fines of $1,500 and up for illegal firework activity.

If someone is injured by fireworks, here’s what you can do:

  • If an eye injury happens, don’t let the injured person touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Don’t flush the eye out with water or try to put any ointment on it. Cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and get medical care right away — eyesight may depend on it.
  • If someone suffers a burn, remove clothing from the burned area, and call your doctor immediately.
  • If someone is injured due to the negligence of someone else, please contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately to receive legal assistance, be compensated for injuries suffered, and continue to get medical care in the future.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles in recent years has represented victims of fireworks accidents and other burn injury cases. In 2014 attorney David Cohn represented two men who suffered from severe injuries caused in a fireworks accident while attending a party on Fourth of July in west Bakersfield. The two men arrived at the party where party-goers were allegedly setting off illegal fireworks and explosives. A blast injured two clients, and the case settled in 2018 for $2.3 million.

— Alexa Esparza contributed to this report.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a fireworks accident due to the negligence of another, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.