By STEVEN NALLEY
They caused 8,600 injuries in 2010 alone, and two out of five of their victims that year were under 15 years old. In 2009, they caused 18,000 fires and $38 million in property loss.
And on July 4, they will be everywhere in America.
Fireworks are an Independence Day tradition, but it’s illegal to sell or use them within the Starkville city limits without permission from the city and the fire department. Even when used legally outside the city, fireworks can still be dangerous unless safety precautions are taken.
Starkville Fire Department Fire Marshal Mark McCurdy said while Independence Day is often a happy occasion with parades, picnics, barbecues and fireworks, an accident with fireworks can quickly turn the holiday tragic.
McCurdy said the safest way to enjoy fireworks is through public displays staged by professionals, including the show at the Starkville Sportsplex at 9 p.m. July 4. He said the SFD will have a fire truck on site at the display in the event something goes wrong at the Sportsplex.
“Fireworks are a lot of fun, but at the same time, if they’re not handled properly, they’re dangerous,” McCurdy said. “The best way to protect your family and friends is not to use any fireworks at home. Attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.”
McCurdy said a key reason fireworks are banned in the city limits is to prevent structures from catching fire, making the Sportsplex’s wide open soccer fields the venue of choice for the city’s official fireworks displays. Similarly, he said, those shooting fireworks outside the city limits should seek wide open spaces, especially bodies of water like lakes or ponds.
“Those spots are excellent for shooting fireworks,” McCurdy said. “The further away from a structure you can be, the better.”
Grass and woods fires increase every year during the summer, McCurdy said, caused not only by fireworks, but also by cigarettes and other incendiary agents.
“A lot of the reason is due to extreme weather conditions and little to no rain,” McCurdy said. “We have been fortunate lately and have received a sizable amount of rain which will help with reducing the number of grass and woods fires that we see, but during this time, we also see a lot of fires as a result of fireworks being misused and handled.”
Even the smallest fireworks can be hazardous, McCurdy said. Sparklers are not toys, he said, and they caused an estimated 1,200 injuries in 2010. Sparklers can get as hot as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, enough to melt some metals.
“Most people don’t realize that, and what do parents typically give to kids?” McCurdy said. “My kids play with them, and they love them, but the key there is adult supervision. I wouldn’t give my three-year-old a sparkler and then go inside and watch TV.”
If someone suffers burns from fireworks, others should flush and clean the wound with cool or lukewarm water before covering it, McCurdy said.
Fragments of fireworks can still go off even after the initial explosion, he said, including any that get embedded in a wound. Do not put ice on a burn wound, he said, because it will damage exposed tissue.
And call 911, McCurdy said, because a burn victim will need professional aid.
“Burns are one of the hardest, if not the hardest, things to treat in the field,” McCurdy said.
Other safety tips:
u Do not hold fireworks in your hands while lighting.
u Leave pieces of fireworks on the ground after an event. Again, these fragments may still be ignited and can explode.
u Stand several feet away from the professionals lighting fireworks; fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction.
u The use of fireworks must be supervised by an adult at all times.
u Make sure that all fireworks have been extinguished before leaving the area.
u Do not use fireworks indoors.