The Fourth of July is one of the busiest days of the year for house fires. Sure, it's a celebration and, yes, fireworks are traditional and they can be used safely. Nonetheless, nearly 20,000 fires annually are blamed on fireworks, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Virtually no one sets out to set their neighbor's house on fire (or their own) but that does happen. In Oahu, Hawaii, in 2005, 123 fires were directly related to fireworks on the Fourth. That is one city in one state. And that adds up to a busy day for emergency crews.
Even the most common fireworks, such as a sparkler, can start a fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in 2015 that a 19-year-old woman died from smoke inhalation in an apartment fire started by a sparkler. It seems a teenager threw a sparkler through the second floor window to get the attention of his friend. But his friend was sleeping downstairs. The sparkler started a fire that engulfed the house.
The problem with fireworks is that if handled in a reckless manner, there are no second chances. Nearly two-thirds of fireworks-related injuries are caused by backyard fireworks, including firecrackers and bottle rockets. About 20 percent of injuries are caused by firecrackers and 19 percent are caused by sparklers. The worst injuries are caused by illegal fireworks: M-80s and cherry bombs. These fireworks have been illegal since 1966 when Congress passed the Child Protection Act that specifically outlawed them. Today it is a felony to possess or explode a cherry bomb or M-80.
According to the NFPA, the most frequent injuries from fireworks are:
- 36%: Hand or finger
- 19%: Head, face and ear
- 19%: Eye
- 11%: Trunk or other
- 10%: Leg
- 5%: Arm
More than half of the injuries are burns.