Happy Fourth — now don’t blow your hand off

The News TribuneJuly 3, 2014 

Thanks to Tacoma’s fireworks ban, the city is bucking a national trend that has seen fireworks-related injuries explode — no pun intended.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks caused 11,400 injuries nationwide in 2013, a whopping 31 percent increase over the year before. There were also eight fireworks-related deaths. No big surprise: Most of the damage was done in the month surrounding the Fourth of July.

The CPSC isn’t sure what accounts for the increase, but suggests it might be because some states — including Michigan, Maine and Arizona — have made it easier to buy fireworks. Conversely, when communities enforce fireworks bans, injury numbers drop. Besides Tacoma, all personal fireworks are banned in Fircrest, Ruston and Steilacoom; on Joint Base Lewis-McChord; and in all parks.

Not unexpectedly, the CPSC reports that young people are most likely to suffer fireworks injuries. About half of those injured in 2013 were 25 or younger. What is unexpected is that children under 4 accounted for 14 percent of the injuries.

For that age group, the most dangerous fireworks are the supposedly “safe-and-sane” sparklers, which burn at about 2,000 degrees F. That’s hot enough to burn some metals; tiny hands don’t stand a chance.

Most fireworks injuries aren’t serious and don’t require more than a visit to the emergency room. But every year, a few people put out an eye, blow off a few fingers or even are mortally wounded.

And then there are the fires. Every Fourth of July, homes are damaged or burned down by people shooting off illegal fireworks — and anything that goes airborne is illegal outside of tribal reservations that sell the incendiaries. This Fourth of July comes after a run of warm, dry days that have dried vegetation and increased the risk of fire, making it even more important to abide by community fireworks laws.

It’s one thing for people to risk their own life and limb; they have no business endangering their law-abiding neighbors. Mayhem and fires have been Fourth of July traditions for far too long.

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