Fireworks Safety: Tips To Avoid Injuries And Fires

After last year’s Fourth of July celebrations, officials in the Bay Area sounded the alarm about the risks of fireworks. As illegal fireworks lit up the sky, fire departments in Contra Costa County battled dozens of grass and structure fires. 

California has zero tolerance for the sale and use of illegal fireworks, including sky rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, aerial shells, firecrackers, and other fireworks that explode, go into the air, or move on the ground in an uncontrolled manner. But around 300 California communities do allow fireworks that carry the “Safe and Sane” seal. 

The seal does not mean such fireworks are without danger. A recent high-profile fire caused by fireworks in California took place in 2020 as a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device set off during a gender-reveal party triggered a blaze that destroyed 7,000 acres in two days.

Video proof of how fast a fire spreads

As Contra Costa County fire protection officials showed in a video, a single safe and sane sparkler can cause a fire that roars out of control within a minute. Safe and sane fireworks include anything that does not leave the ground, such as fountains, sparklers, snake-type fireworks, ground-spinning fireworks, pinwheels, most novelty fireworks, toy trick noisemakers, and some crackling items. 

Fireworks injuries on the rise

In addition to causing, on average, 18,500 fires a year, fireworks also result in thousands of serious injuries, underscoring the importance of fireworks safety. During the first summer of COVID-19 in 2020, when many communities canceled official Fourth of July fireworks, fireworks-related deaths and injuries rose by 50%, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The commission speculated the cancellations may have spurred consumers to use fireworks on their own and getting injured in the process. 

The report, released last summer, noted: 

  • At least 18 people died from fireworks-related incidents in 2020, compared to 12 reported for the previous year.
  • About 15,600 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for fireworks injuries in 2020 compared to  10,000 ER-treated fireworks injuries in 2019.
  • Of the 18 deaths, eight of the victims had used alcohol or drugs prior to the incident.

Just like previous years, most fireworks-related injuries (about 66%) occurred in the month surrounding the July 4th holiday. Other returning trends included:

  • Young adults, 20-24, were the most at risk of having to seek emergency care for fireworks-related injuries. 
  • Firecrackers caused the most ER-treated fireworks injuries, followed by sparklers. 
  • Hand and finger injuries were the most injured body parts, accounting for a third of all injuries. The head, face, and ears suffered the second most injuries (22%), while eye injuries made up 15% of the total. 
  • Burns were the most common fireworks-related, emergency room-treated injury, at 44 percent. 

Sparklers pose particular threat to children

To practice fireworks safety, organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide cautions families to only attend public fireworks displays run by trained professionals. Safe Kids reports more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are sent to the ER each year in the United States with fireworks-related injuries. Sparklers, which children commonly get during the holidays, pose a particular danger. They can heat up to 1,200 degrees and are to blame for one third of the injuries to children under 5. 

It’s also important to note that aside from keeping your children away from fireworks, you can be held liable for any damages or injuries that they may cause should they set some off. 

Fireworks safety tips to remember

To reduce the risk of an accident, follow these basic fireworks safety tips:

  • Use only State Fire Marshal approved fireworks (Safe and Sane fireworks can only be purchased from such a licensed retail stand)
  • Local ordinances should be verified before purchasing and/or using fireworks
  • Always read directions
  • Always have an adult present (do not let children handle fireworks)
  • Only use fireworks outdoors
  • Never use fireworks near dry grass or other flammable materials
  • Light one firework at a time
  • Have a bucket of water and a hose nearby
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse
  • Back up several feet immediately after lighting fireworks
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person
  • Never experiment with fireworks
  • Never attempt to re-light or “fix” fireworks
  • Do not wear loose fitting clothing while lighting fireworks
  • Never carry fireworks in your pockets
  • Fireworks are not toys

So, what happens if you take all the precautions but still get injured by a firework due to someone else’s negligence? We wrote about that scenario and your legal rights in this post, “Firework Injury: When Can You Sue?

How can we help? Since 1992, Penney & Associates has won millions of dollars in settlements and trial awards for our clients, from those whose negligence or criminal actions have caused irreparable harm. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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