Bright but dangerous

by Town Reminder

Bright but dangerous
Although illegal, fireworks are often lit, resulting in injuries

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Sixty-five percent of individuals burned by fireworks are under the age of 18, according to State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan. Twenty-three percent are between the ages of 10 and 14. And with statistics like that, residents – specifically parents – need to become more aware of the repercussions from firework possession.
In Massachusetts, the sale and possession of fireworks is illegal, regardless if they were purchased legally. Yet, every year, fireworks – and those who possess them – make the news, often for resulting injuries.
According to information provided by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, there have been 804 major fire and explosion incidents in the past decade (2002-2011) involving illegal fireworks. Of these 804 incidents, one fatality occurred, 18 civilians were injured and four fire personnel were injured. An estimated dollar loss from these damaging incidents totals $2.5 million.
Regionally, the Springfield Fire Department was dispatched Aug. 29, 2010 for a motor vehicle fire after someone ignited fireworks in the passenger area of the vehicle. Damage was estimated at $1,000.
In 2011 in Spencer, a two-family home was destroyed on July 3 after a tenant and children played with sparklers which fell into the trash. That same year in Marshfield, a 13-year-old boy, 17-year-old girl and a 47-year-old woman were burned after consumer-grade fireworks were accidentally fired off into a crowd of people. This occurred a second time that night, burning a 9-year-old boy, a 13-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl.
In the past decade, 45 individuals have been treated at emergency rooms across the state for severe burn injuries resulting from fireworks. Burns covering more than five percent of the body are characterized as severe.
Two-thirds (67 percent) of these victims were children under the age of 18. Thirty-one percent were between the ages of 10 and 14. According to the State fire Marshall, the oldest person to report injuries was 52 and the youngest was a six-month old boy.
It’s imperative that parents remain vigilant in regard to promoting the deadly consequences of fireworks and avoiding purchasing them. Children are great imitators and as the facts show, make up half of those injured from fireworks.
“Fireworks are like anything else – you don’t intend to hurt yourself but they are potentially dangerous,” said South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie, adding that igniting fireworks could result in life-lasting injuries. “Our motive is to protect everyone and aggressively enforce firework statutes,” he said. “Even legal types of fireworks such as sparklers, are dangerous.”
Dr. Ronald Gross, chief of the Trauma and Emergency Surgery Services at Baystate Medical Center, said, “Fireworks are extremely dangerous, especially in the hands of youngsters or even adults who are not professionally trained in their use. Fireworks involve explosions, accelerants and projectiles, and they can result in serious burns and other devastating injuries, lifelong disabilities, and even death. What is so upsetting is that all of this is completely preventable.”
According to Gross, traumatic amputation of the fingers or hands is a common result of a fireworks-related injury. Other injuries usually involve the eyes or head and can sometimes result in blinding or even death. More than half of fireworks-related injuries involve burns, which can be one of the most painful injuries a child can encounter.
According to Baystate Medical Center, if for any reason a fireworks accident occurs, seek medical attention immediately, regardless of the severity of the injury. Do not rub or rinse out the eyes, which can cause further damage. Pressure should be applied to control bleeding, but should be avoided on the area around the eye. Do not use any kind of aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause blood thinning and potentially increase any bleeding that is present. Using ointments and medications are not recommended, as they can make the area around the eye slippery and interfere with the doctor’s examination.
Penalties for the sale of fireworks include a fine between $100 and $1,000, a maximum one-year imprisonment sentence and mandatory confiscation of the fireworks. Penalties from firework possession and use include a fine between $10 and $100 and mandatory confiscation of the fireworks. Additionally, state and local police regularly confiscate shipments of illegal fireworks purchased through mail-order catalogues.
Possession of any firework is illegal, according to the State Fire Marshall, including Class C fireworks often labeled “safe and sane.” These are sparklers, which burn at 1800 degrees, party poppers, snappers, firecrackers, spinners and cherry bombs.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a local showing of them. South Hadley is hosting their Independence Day celebration on Wednesday, July 3 at 6 p.m. with fireworks slated to be set off at 9:30 p.m. Holyoke is hosting their celebration Friday, June 29 at Holyoke Community College at 6 p.m.