A Personal Account
The Fourth of July can be a fun time with great memories to be made. One of my fondest memories, not really, is a party I attended in 1997. It was the summer I had graduated from high school. It was time for warm weather in Western New York, a season of fun in the sun, graduation parties galore and time with friends and family.
It was early in the evening that July 4th. I had picked up a few of my girlfriends. The warm summer air kissed our skin as we opened the sunroof on my ’94 Dodge Shadow painted a custom diamond flake pearl, turned up the radio with connected bass tube and drove to the party. Girls just want to have fun, right! As we pulled up to the home where the party was being held there were a ton of people around. In the front yard, back yard and house friends were laughing and enjoying each other’s company and music. Most were gripping red plastic cups.
As we got out of my car, my friends and I approached a group at the front porch. As we greeted everyone the host asked if I would like a drink. Of course, I graciously accepted, at which time the host reached out to me and asked “Here, can you hold this for a minute?” I reached out to grab what I, at first glance, thought was a lit cigarette. It wasn’t. It was a lit firecracker! It all happened in split seconds. The fire cracker went off in my hand. I was fancy with acrylic nails, three of which were blown off. The “bang” noise was so close to my head I couldn’t hear for a few minutes. Once I regained my hearing I was still left with a ringing in my ears for 2 days. I also lost feeling in my thumb, pointer finger and middle finger of my right hand for about 3 weeks. As a chef and being right handed this made my job very difficult during that time period.
I was fortunate that I didn’t have any permanent damage from such a thoughtless joke. Many others are not so fortunate. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has statistics on injury and death for consumer products including fireworks. The most recent is a report that was released in June 2015 for the year 2014 Firework Annual Report. This report contains data on fireworks related deaths, emergency department treated injuries and enforcement activities in the year 2014. This report is not all inclusive and there is ongoing data added regularly as new reports come in.
CPSC Reports & Statistics
Statistics that the CPSC reported in this 2014 Fireworks Annual Report were that there were:
- 11 fireworks related deaths
- 4 in house fires caused by fireworks
- 10,500 injuries treated in emergency rooms
- 7000 (67%) between June 20 and July 20
- 300 from public display
- 6700 from private use
- 7000 (67%) between June 20 and July 20
- 74% of injuries were males, 26% were females
- 35% were children under 15 years old
- 5 to 9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency (5.2 injuries per 100,000 people)
- Injuries sustained by:
- Sparklers/bottle rockets -1400
- Fire crackers -1400
- 26% small
- 28% illegal
- 46% specifics not provided
- 54% of the treated injuries were burns, except the eyes in which contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eyes occurred more frequently:
- 36% hands and fingers
- 19% head, face, and ears
- 19% eyes
- 10% legs
- 5% arms
- 83% of victims were treated and released
- 14% were admitted to the hospital
The report also has the stories in relation to some of these injuries and deaths. When reading through them I could relate to the stories and how easily they could happen, too. Here are a few examples:
“On July 4, a 49 year old female from Florida sustained 95 percent total body burns and inhalation injury in a house fire and died the next day. It was reported that the victim was in her bedroom preparing mortar type fireworks to be launched for a party with some family members and friends. According to the report, while in the bedroom, an accident occurred and an ashtray was knocked over by a puppy. That sparked a fire and caused the fireworks to start exploding in the bedroom. The victim was pulled out from a window by her son and others, and she was airlifted to a medical center. The victim was pronounced deceased on July 5.”
“On July 5, two victims from Ohio, a 78 year old male and a 76 year old female died in a house fire. The fire was suspected to have been caused by falling debris from fireworks in their neighborhood. On the night of the incident, witnesses reported several people in the neighborhood using fireworks. It is believed that falling debris from one of the fireworks devices ignited combustible material on the back patio area of the victim’s home. At the time of the fire, the victims were sleeping inside the home. A neighbor was awakened by his barking dog and saw the fire on the back patio of the victim’s home. He went to the victims’ home and knocked on the front door. The male victim came to the door but went back into the house to get his wife who was unable to get out of bed on her own. The neighbor stated that the male victim never came back out of the house. The neighbor tried to enter the house to help but stated the smoke was too thick. The fire department responded and put out the fire. The victims were found deceased inside of the home.”
“On July 4, 2014, a 14 year old victim from Washington State, his family and friends were gathered at a private residence for a holiday celebration. According to witnesses, attendees at the party were sitting and standing around a bonfire while others were lighting off fireworks. Two launch tubes were set about eight inches apart. Individuals (possibly including the victim) lit the launch tubes and ran away. The witnesses described a “blinding light” and realized that one of the devices had been shot into the crowd of people. One witness said the device “exploded rather than going up.” After everything cleared, the victim was discovered lying on the ground with a significant head injury. The victim was airlifted to a trauma hospital and he died there 9 days later from his injury.
If not handled properly, fireworks can cause burns and eye injuries in children and adults. I know from experience that what was supposed to be a fun night was easily ruined with poor judgment which left me with weeks of discomfort. The best way to protect yourself and family is not to use any fireworks at home. Leave the lighting to the professionals. Always use safe practices, to include being aware of what is going on around you! There are some great resource to help assist you in practicing firework safety below.
Enjoy the fireworks shows and BE SAFE!!