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Fireworks a Risky Thrill; State Fire Marshal Urges Extreme Caution, Safety
Injury risk highest for teens and kids ages five to nine
Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280
June 26, 2017 - If you plan to celebrate Independence Day by setting off a few fireworks or giving sparklers to the kids, beware of the risks and know the dangers. Take every safety precaution, especially with the more powerful consumer-grade devices such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles, to avoid tragedy.
"The safest way to enjoy fireworks is professional displays,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. “If you do plan to shoot your own fireworks, remember these are explosives and that if used incorrectly, can cause irreparable injury and harm. Certified fireworks retailers aim to make safety their top priority.”
According to the latest national data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 2015 was the worst year for fireworks injuries in at least 15 years. Injuries from fireworks accounted for 11,900 emergency room visits and 11 deaths in 2015. Of the 11 deaths, nine involved people misusing reloadable fireworks, often trying to hold them when they fired, either on their head or in their hands. The other two deaths involved homemade fireworks; one dying in a house fire caused by homemade fireworks. Teenagers between ages 15-19 suffered the highest rate of injuries, followed by children ages five to nine. Most injuries are to hands and fingers; followed by head, face and ears; then eyes, arms and legs. Nationally, firecrackers are the leading device causing injuries, followed by sky rockets. Firework mishaps also account for approximately 20,000 fires each year; most notably, house fires.
In Michigan, consumer fireworks became legal Jan. 1, 2012, and must meet CPSC standards. They will only be sold to people 18 years of age or older. Low impact fireworks (ground-based items such as sparklers, toy snakes, snaps, and poppers) are legal for sale and use.
State law requires that consumer-grade fireworks only be ignited from personal property. It is illegal to ignite fireworks on public property (including streets and sidewalks), school property, church property, or another person’s property without their express permission. State law makes it illegal to discharge fireworks when intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. When fire-related incidents involve consumer, low impact, or illegal fireworks resulting in property damage, injury or death of another person, individuals are subject to being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years and fines of up to $10,000 or both, depending upon the severity of the crime.
“The Bureau of Fire Services fire inspectors are issuing citations to sellers who are non-compliant with the Fireworks Safety Act,” said Sehlmeyer. “We must ensure fireworks retailers operate their businesses safely to protect the public.” He emphasized that consumers should always buy from state-certified fireworks retailers, noting that nationally, 40 percent of injuries are caused by illegal fireworks per the CPSC.
Sehlmeyer encourages people to enjoy professional fireworks displays by attending events run by their municipalities. “If consumer fireworks are used at home, be sure to check local ordinances for other limitations on the use of fireworks.”
Here are important safety tips to protect lives and property while enjoying the Fourth of July.
- Purchase fireworks from an authorized retailer and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Have an adult supervise fireworks activities, including sparklers.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance.
- Keep people and pets out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Light fireworks outdoors on a driveway or other paved surface at least 25 feet away from houses and highly flammable materials such as dry grass or mulch.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Douse spent fireworks in a bucket of water before discarding them.
- Allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
- Try to re-light “duds” or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully. (Rather, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.)
- Point or throw fireworks at other people.
- Carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- Buy fireworks packaged in brown paper or use unlabeled fireworks, they are for professional use.
- Never experiment with or make your own fireworks.
Sehlmeyer also warns of the dangers of sparklers. “Never consider sparklers as harmless for the kids,” said Sehlmeyer. “A significant number of young children are being injured by being poked with sparkler wires and are being badly burned by sparklers each year per the CPSC.”
More than 50 percent of sparkler-related injuries happen to kids under age 14 across the country. Sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and have the potential to cause significant burn injuries. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing and can cause grass fires if thrown on the ground. Always keep a bucket of water close by to dispose of used sparklers promptly.
A list of legal consumer fireworks, legal low impact fireworks, and novelties is outlined below or go to http://www.michigan.gov/documents/lara/fireworks_381040_7.pdf. To learn more about fireworks safety, the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, or obtain a list of state-certified fireworks retailers, go to the Bureau of Fire Services website at www.michigan.gov/bfs.
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