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'Leave the fireworks to the professionals': As Fourth of July approaches, fire chief warns of holiday dangers

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Posted at 11:19 AM, Jul 01, 2023

NEENAH (NBC 26) — With the Fourth of July just around the corner, professionals in the firefighting field are reminding everyone to stay safe for fireworks season.

Before rushing out to buy a pack of colorful explosives, Neenah-Menasha Assistant Fire Chief Adam Dorn says: wait.

“Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Every year, so many people get injured or burned because of the use of consumer fireworks," Dorn said.

In his field, the two weeks sandwiching the holiday are the most disastrous of the year.

"Seventy-four percent of the burn injuries happen either the week prior or the week after the Fourth of July," Dorn said.

Fireworks injuries and deaths graphic 2022

And the volume of injuries has been increasing as well.

"Over the last 15 years there's been a 25% increase in the amount of injuries from fireworks. Do we know why that's happening? Well, there's probably a number of different reasons. Sometimes it's involving the use of alcohol. Sometimes it's just being careless. Sometimes it's being unsupervised — letting younger people use fireworks unsupervised. And sometimes it can just be the fact that you may have a firework that doesn't work as designed and something bad happens," said Dorn.

He also warned that firework injuries are a ripple effect of bad news. The person injured and their loved ones will experience pain and distress — and firefighters are kept busy driving to the high volume of calls, which puts a strain on resources.

Among the all-too-common injuries experienced from unsafe fireworks practices, young people are at the greatest risk.

“Over 50% of fireworks injuries occur to people under the age of 20,” Dorn said.

That is just one reason why minors aren't allowed to purchase these products.

“We don't sell any fireworks under 18,” said Chuck Krause.

Krause owns Fireworks Mart in the town of Clayton, just outside of the city of Neenah. Because of city ordinance allowances, Krause's business can sell a wide variety of options, from "safe and sane" fireworks to "big boomers."

He said he loves legally firing off the really big fireworks — Racoons and Red Rhinos are among his long list of favorites — but he said there are plenty of options for people who want to have fun while still abiding by the more restrictive city ordinances in places like Neenah and Menasha.

“The fountains are getting better and better every year. It's – I think it's probably, it's the biggest growing sector, of our business anyway," Krause said.

He said there are also quieter options for noise-sensitive celebrators.

But if families are looking for kid-friendly options, sparklers are not recommended.

“Sparklers should not be given to young kids… you wouldn't give a welding rod to a kid, and that's basically what you're doing. Really, older kids are fine for sparklers, but not young kids,” said Krause.

Dorn confirmed the danger.

"Sparklers can reach 2,000 degrees, which is actually hotter than a blowtorch," Dorn said.

If you live in Neenah or Menasha, city ordinance requires that your firework needs to stay on the ground. Cones or fountains are fine, but nothing is allowed to leave the ground and explode.

Be sure you know what's legal where you live, and remember to practice best safety measures for firework handling.

Here are some quick fireworks safety tips if you are going to launch them from a legal site:

  • Keep a bucket of water nearby to douse used fireworks — or burned body parts, in worst case scenarios
  • Always use fireworks outside — never indoors
  • Ensure the ground is level where you are launching the firework
  • Move back a distance of at least 35 feet from ground-based fireworks, or at least 150 feet from fireworks that launch into the air
  • Keep pets indoors and away from the fireworks
  • Never try to relight a failed firework. Let duds sit for five to 10 minutes before dropping them in your bucket of water
  • Only light one firework at a time
  • Do not handle fireworks while intoxicated
  • Never throw or point fireworks at another person

You can read more information from the American Burn Association at this link.