With fireworks a staple of the Fourth of July, area fire officials and firework sellers are urging buyers and spectators to exercise caution and common sense in their use of anything that smokes, sparkles or explodes this year.
“We always recommend that you just go to an approved fireworks show instead of doing it yourself,” Denison Fire Rescue Marshal John Weda said. “But if you are a do-it-yourselfer we certainly want to remind people that you have to do it outside city limits and that you take it somewhere where you’re approved to be and that it’s a safe area.”
The National Fire Protection Association states an average of 18,500 fires per year are started by fireworks, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and 16,900 outdoor and other fires. The NFPA said those fires result in an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries and more than $40 million in property damage.
Sherman Fire-Rescue Marshal Danny Fuller said firework-related injuries send many people to the emergency room each Independence Day and often stem from high temperatures and explosions.
“Most of the injuries are going to result from burns or small blasts,” Fuller said. “First-degree burns are pretty common and you can get higher with second and third-degree burns, which are usually caused by people moving smoke bombs and sparklers. They can really do some damage to your skin. You have to be very careful anytime you handle them.”
Grayson County Fire Marshal Andy Brazie said while there are a multitude of fireworks, which vary widely in strength and function, all can be dangerous and should only be handled by sober adults.
“Children should not be playing with even sparklers,” Brazie said. “They can burn anywhere from 1,200 to 1,800 degrees. So, at that level, it does not take much to burn a child.”
Fuller said all fireworks should be set off on level and paved surfaces whenever possible and away from any open flames and buildings.
“It’s never a good idea to use fireworks near any type of structure,” Fuller said. “A good option instead is an open field with short cut grass. Ideally, it’d be best to have a 100-yard radius around the area you’ll be using them. A good acre is a good start.”
Weda said users should always follow the instructions included on any firework packaging, have a way to extinguish any unexpected fires and be prepared for possible malfunctions or defects.
“If you light one and it does not go off for some reason, leave it alone,” Weda said. “Keep your distance and let is sit for 10 or 15 minutes before you go over to it. It could still go off.”
Brazie said anyone who plans to use fireworks on the Fourth should be certain to ensure the safety of not only people, but animals and thoroughly extinguish all items after they’ve been used.
“Keep in mind that your dogs, cats and other pets are going to be affected by the loud noises and bright lights from fireworks,” Brazie said. “So try to protect your animals from that as much as possible. And when people finish with their fireworks, they really should put them in a bucket of water. You should let them soak before you put them in a garbage can.”
Christi Cameron, owner and founder of Christi’s Fireworks in Van Alstyne, said those looking to include firecrackers in their Fourth of July celebrations should buy only from reputable and helpful sellers and keep any fireworks in a dry and relatively cool location until they’re ready to be used.
“The best thing is just to find a knowledgeable seller of fireworks, ask any questions you might have and just talk it through with them,” Cameron said. “They’ll get you set up with everything you need.”