Celebrating with fireworks is a central part of summer celebrations for lots of people. Professional events put on impressive displays, but sometimes you want to have your own show with friends and family, without fighting the crowds and traffic that often come with public events.
Fireworks can be dangerous, though. Even sparklers—which parents often allow children to hold—can reach 1,800 degrees F. That’s hot enough to start a fire or melt glass or aluminum. And it’s not just the heat that’s dangerous. The chemicals that ignite in sparklers can cause burns. Sparklers injure 3,500 people in the U. S. every year.
Lourdes Castanon, MD, a burn care specialist with Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, said that eight to nine people die every year from misuse of fireworks, and in 2020 there were 15,600 people who were hospitalized due to fireworks-related injuries. Burns are the most common injury, followed by loss of a body part. “Most of these injuries occur around the 4th of July,” Dr. Castanon said. It’s important to know that you can be held legally and financially responsible for injuries caused by using fireworks.
“Ideally, fireworks should be handled by the experts,” Dr. Castanon said. But if you decide to celebrate with fireworks, you can take steps to keep yourself and the people with you safer.
Here are ways to use fireworks more safely
- Buy fireworks from a licensed dealer and follow local and state laws.
- Before you use your fireworks, store them in a cool, dry space. Keep them out of the reach of children and away from hot objects that may ignite them.
- Never light fireworks indoors.
- Have a designated adult who stays sober and lights the fireworks. Don’t mix alcohol or drugs with fireworks.
- Wear safety glasses or goggles if you are lighting the fireworks or are close by.
- Make sure adults supervise children around fireworks.
- Read the instructions and all safety and warning labels.
- Have a designated area where you light the fireworks. This should be a clear, open area away from buildings, vehicles, obstructions, dry leaves, grass and shrubbery.
- Light fireworks on a hard, even surface. Point fireworks away from buildings, brush and other flammable materials, and keep a water supply handy.
- Wet the surface where you will light the fireworks in case they spark but don’t deploy.
- Don’t put your head or any part of your body over the top of any fireworks.
- Don’t look into a tube or any fireworks device to check on the fireworks.
- Don’t hold a lighted firework in your hand.
- Light fireworks with the wind blowing away from the spectators. If the wind shifts, rearrange your lighting site to accommodate the change or stop until the wind subsides. Don’t light any fireworks during strong winds.
- Keep spectators at least 35 feet away from ground-based fireworks (including fountains) and 150 feet from aerial fireworks.
- Do not ignite multiple fireworks at the same time. Lighting too many simultaneously can lead to a fire or an explosion.
Here’s what to do if someone gets burned
If something goes wrong when you’re using fireworks and a burn occurs, here’s how to treat it:
- Put cool (not cold) water on the burn to stop the burning process.
- Remove all clothing and jewelry from the injured area.
- Cover the area with a clean, dry sheet of loose bandages.
- Seek medical attention.
The bottom line
You might not feel like your summer celebrations are complete without a fireworks display. While it may be better to leave fireworks to the pros, following safety tips can help keep your home displays less dangerous. If you would like to connect with a health care professional to learn more about staying safe, reach out to Banner Health.