Play it safe with fireworks today


Cookouts, parades, and fireworks help us celebrate the summer season, especially our nation's birthday on the Fourth of July. Fireworks can excite, thrill and amaze us. But as dazzling as fireworks can look, they also can be harmful if used improperly.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, firework devices were responsible for an estimated 9,600 injuries and six deaths in 2004. Firework-related injuries accounted for 6,800 people being treated in emergency departments during the month of July alone.

More than half of these injuries were to children under the age of 15. Many suffered from permanent damage, such as severe burn or loss of an eye or finger. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of an unexpected emergency.

"Unfortunately, these types of injuries that occur relative to fireworks are completely preventable with just simple safety procedures and the use of common sense," said Dr. Larry Bookman, Yampa Valley Medical Center Emergency Department physician.

Even the well-known sparkler, considered to be safe by most, can reach temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and can ignite clothing or cause serious burns.

Consider this story from the CPSC: A father had allowed his small child to hold a sparkler. The sparkler exploded and flew onto the child's clothes, lighting them on fire. This accident caused second- and third-degree burns and necessitated several skin graphs and a six-month stay in a burn unit.

e don't have to sacrifice fun, but it is important to use common sense and follow the laws that are in place for our safety.

Permissible fireworks are those that burn out and don't leave the ground," Steamboat Springs Fire Marshal Jay Muhme said. "Any other type of firework is considered illegal."

Illegal fireworks include M80s, M100s and bottle rockets. Don't confuse these items with acceptable consumer fireworks, which include firecrackers, sparklers, fountains and roman candles. Many illegal fireworks are unlabeled and do not have a caution statement or manufacturer's name printed on them.

"Fireworks are regulated by state law," Muhme said. "No one under the age of 16 many purchase any firework."

Getting caught with illegal fireworks in Routt County is a misdemeanor and can result in a fine of as much as $750 and a sentence of six months in jail.

Because of abundant rainfall this spring and summer, there is no statewide ban on firework use at this time. However, extreme caution is always advisable when using fireworks due to the possibility of accidentally setting a fire.

"Each year we go out on calls that are due to unsafe use of fireworks," Muhme added. For questions regarding fireworks or firework safety, people are encouraged to call the Steamboat Springs Fire Prevention Office at 871-8216.

Mindy Fontaine is Public Relations Coordinator at Yampa Valley Medical Center.


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