Baby, you’re a firework; so be careful!
Summer heat means outdoor activities and revelry. Our nation’s Independence Day or July 4th is a popular gathering day filled with food, libations, and colorful fireworks that fill the sky. Those memorable fireworks can cause a lot of damage if they aren’t used correctly, however.
Fireworks were responsible for an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 17,100 outside and other fires. These fires caused five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage.
As shown above, fireworks can cause severe hand and leg injuries and burns, the loss of limbs, and in some extreme cases, even death. In fact, about 10 people each year die in firework-related incidents.
A recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report found a 50 percent increase in deaths and injuries from fireworks-related incidents in 2020, compared to 2019. It also outlines a 25% growth in firework-related injuries over a 15-year span from 2006 to 2021. Fatalities have remained about the same, the report found.
But the figure is troubling, as most official celebrations were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, the nation saw a large increase in people being hurt and killed by fireworks during the COVID- 19 shutdown. This means that many Americans took fireworks into their own hands, so to speak, in unofficial displays handled by untrained handlers. Even worse, of the 18 deaths, 8 of the victims (44 percent) had used alcohol or drugs prior to the incident.
“These tragic deaths and injuries are reminders of just how dangerous fireworks can be,” Consumer Product Safety Commission Acting Chairman Robert Adler said. “Consumers should enjoy professional fireworks displays from a distance and be extra vigilant when using consumer-type fireworks.”
Adler’s department reports an estimated 15,600 people required emergency room treatment in U.S. hospitals due to accidents involving fireworks last year, up from approximately 10,000 in 2019. In 2008 by contrast, the total number of fireworks injuries recorded came to about 7,000. The CPSC reports the following:
- 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. There were about 10,000 ER-treated fireworks injuries in 2019.
The key takeaway from the report is the volatile month of July, though. About 66% of firework-related injuries occurred from June 21, 2020, to July 21, 2020. During that time, severe injuries related to fireworks increased. More people were admitted to the hospital or were transferred to another hospital for treatment, due to severe fireworks injuries in 2020 (21 percent) versus 2019 (12 percent). Other important facts from this report include:
- Young adults ages 20-24 saw the biggest spike in visits to the hospital emergency room for fireworks-related injuries, compared to any age group last year, with 17 injuries per 100,000 people in 2020 versus 2.8 per 100,000 people in 2019.
- Firecrackers were the biggest source of ER-treated fireworks injuries (1,600), followed by sparklers (900).
- The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers, at 30 percent. The head, face, and ears were the second most injured body parts, at 22 percent. Eye injuries were fourth at 15 percent. While leg, arm, and trunk injuries made a combined total of 25% of persons treated at emergency departments due to fireworks from June 21, 2020, to July 21, 2020.
- Burns were the most common fireworks-related, emergency room-treated injury, at 44 percent.
Treating Firework Injuries
Injuries can happen in a flash with fireworks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns and melt some metals. Some fireworks burn at an even higher 1,800 to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is extremely easy to get hurt by one. The CPSC recommends the following steps if you’re hurt or burned by fireworks:
First-degree burns: With the intensity of a mild sunburn, first-degree burns can be treated by anyone.
- Clean the wound with cool, not cold, water.
- Cover the injury with a sterile, moist dressing.
- If necessary, a dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever can be taken.
Second-degree burns: Second-degree burns affect more than just the top layer of skin and will often cause blistering. To treat a burn of this severity:
- Run the affected area under cool, not cold, water for 10 minutes.
- Once it has cooled, cover the area in moist, sterile, non-fluffy dressing to prevent infection.
- If the burn is larger than the victim’s palm, seek additional medical attention.
- Do not break burn blisters or apply any ointment.
Third-degree burns: This type of burn always requires professional medical attention. The victim may not feel as much pain as a minor burn because third-degree burns are deep injuries that damage nerve endings. Call an ambulance immediately, and in the meantime:
- Remove any clothing touching the burn, unless it is stuck in the affected skin.
- Run the injury under cool water until it has cooled, at least 10 minutes.
- Cover the wound in a moist, sterile, non-fluffy dressing to prevent infection.
- As with second-degree burns, do not break blisters or apply ointment.
Loss of limb: NFL linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul became an advocate for safety after almost blowing his right hand off during a firework accident in 2015. In the event that a finger, toe, etc. is removed from the body:
- Cover the appendage in moist, sterile gauze.
- Place the appendage in a sterile bag.
- Place the bag on ice.
- Drive the victim to the nearest medical location.
- Putting the body part directly on ice can damage tissue.
Eye injuries: If a spark or piece of debris gets in a victim’s eye, cover it with a plastic cup (or similar object) to create a shield and prevent friction. Do not rub or flush the eye, take any pain medication or apply ointment. Immediately drive the victim to the nearest medical location.
“Many Americans get caught up in the excitement of the Fourth of July, and forget that fireworks are also dangerous explosives,” Monica L. Monica, M.D., an ophthalmologist and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology said. “The safest choice is to attend a professional fireworks display and make it a point to supervise children at all times.”
One can clearly see how dangerous these candles of mirth can be. Luckily, there are ways to enjoy them safely. Although, as shown above, most people recommend visiting a professionally organized fireworks show.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishaps.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from the firework device quickly.
- Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water, and throw them away.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a firework device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.
- After fireworks complete their burning, to prevent a trash fire, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase and set off fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.
- Never use fireworks while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
If you’ve been hurt by negligently handled fireworks, you may have a claim for compensation for your injuries. The personal injury attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP, have a track record of getting their clients millions for their wrongful death or catastrophic injury claims. You never have to pay anything out of pocket, and we can guide your next steps through a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Contact or call us at (800) 310-1606 today!