As the Independence Day weekend approaches, firefighters would like to remind the public to stay safe during the holiday and the use of fireworks is illegal inside Sedalia city limits.
A certified pyrotechnician, Sedalia Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Hawkins said that while the force of the explosion is certainly dangerous, burns are the most common injury associated with fireworks.
“Fireworks don’t use typical gunpowder,” Hawkins said. “They use aluminum dust with a nitrate to make them explode. It produces a real high temperature and a bright flash. Your typical sparkler burns at 1,200 degrees. That whole wire turns cherry-red and that is where many kids are burned. Of course, there is always the explosion factor.”
Explosion-related injuries do often occur when a firework fails to explode and users either get too close or try to pick it up and relight it. Hawkins said to never relight a firework and to have a water source, such as a bucket of water or hose, readily available.
“Never hold on to a firework as you light it. Set it down, then light it, and get away from it,” Hawkins said. “If it does not go off, do not try to relight it. After 30 minutes pick it up and drop it into a barrel of water. Typically, after 30 minutes if it has not gone off it’s not going to, but you never know.”
Missouri families should realize that about 40 percent of the U.S. fireworks injuries that send people to hospital emergency rooms each year affect children under age 15. Firefighters urge parents to supervise their children when fireworks are present.
“The last day I worked we had three juveniles in Green Ridge, two of them lost parts of their hands, fingers, and the other one was severely burned playing with fireworks. I don’t know the circumstances, we just got it second-hand, but one of them was Lifeflighted to a burn center over there,” Hawkins said.
There are several reasons why Sedalia, and most cities, have an ordinance preventing the use of fireworks. In Sedalia, the storage, purchase, sale or use of fireworks is an infraction.
“First, firecrackers are a nuisance,” Hawkins said. “They’re fun, but they make a lot of noise and irritate a lot of people. Bottle rockets and aerial devices produce an object that falls to the ground and if they fall on your roof, your house will catch on fire. Not every time, but if it’s still hot and lands just right it can set the house on fire.”
Fireworks are allowed in Pettis County unless there is a burn ban in place, but Hawkins said he expects conditions to remain favorable for fireworks throughout the holiday weekend.
“Conditions are good. We’ve had a lot of rain. The ground is moist. Fireworks should not be a problem,” Hawkins said. “Right now the grass is nice and green. Last year the grass was nice and dry.”
The safest and most fun way to enjoy fireworks as a family is at one of Missouri’s many public displays, which offer far better sights and excitement than consumer fireworks.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), far more fires are reported in the U.S. on a typical Independence Day than on any other day of the year, and fireworks account for more than half of those fires. The NFPA reported that across the U.S. in 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires.
Fireworks sales at licensed seasonal retailers are legal in Missouri from June 20 to July 10. This year, the Division of Fire Safety has licensed more than 1,100 seasonal retailers. State permits should be displayed at all seasonal retail locations. Missourians who choose to use consumer fireworks should be aware of any local ordinances related to fireworks, and should follow basic safety practices.
In addition to the safety tips above, the Division of Fire Safety offers the following advice.
• Purchase fireworks only from a properly licensed retailer.
• Only use fireworks in a large open space that has been cleared of flammable materials. Never light fireworks indoors.
• Always wear eye protection; use earplugs if you have sensitive ears.
• Tie back long hair and don’t wear loose fitting clothes.
• Never have any part of your body over fireworks.
• Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
• Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
• Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and leaving them in a trash can.
• Don’t use fireworks while consuming alcohol. Use a “designated shooter.”
• Store fireworks in a cool, dry place. Don’t save fireworks from season to season.
Anyone with concerns about a fireworks dealer or the types of fireworks being sold by a dealer should call the Division of Fire Safety at (573) 751-2930.