DHEC officials: DIY fireworks can lead to devastating burns... and even death

Published: Jul. 4, 2019 at 6:52 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Fireworks have a become staple part of Fourth of July celebrations for many families, but first responders and emergency officials want you to remember to play it safe.

Assistant State Fire Marshall Nathan Ellis says, “Consumer fireworks are intended for the consumer to use but they are explosive devices. So, we have to keep safety in mind when we use fireworks.”

First responders are offering up some tips on ways to avoid that kind of outcome this Fourth of July. They say make sure children are not operating fireworks without adult supervision. Be sure to have a source of water nearby like a bucket of water, or water hose. Also, you’ll want to make sure that everyone is out of range before setting off your fireworks.

While playing it safe should be your top priority, officials say there’s also an environmental concern. That means being considerate of conditions outside, as well as your neighbors.

“The loud noise can be more of an environmental concern, sometimes, than the smoke. I’ll remind you that this year we are having a pretty dry month and so we haven’t had a lot of rain. So, people need to be real cautious about where they discharge their fireworks, as well. We can set grass and woods on fire," Ellis said.

All fireworks-related emergency room visits are reported to DHEC. Officials there say, often times, few people even realize the risks that come with lighting your own fireworks including devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.

DHEC provided some numbers for the amount of hospital visits in 2016 and 2017 for fireworks-related injuries in South Carolina. 80-percent of those injured were under the age of 35. They also point to a trend over the last couple of years where more than half of fireworks-related ER visits each year happen during the month of July.

Emergency department visits by age during July 4th (source: WIS)
Emergency department visits by age during July 4th (source: WIS)
Emergency department costs during July 4th (source: WIS)
Emergency department costs during July 4th (source: WIS)

Emergency officials say if you’re planning to set off your own fireworks, it’s important to read the directions and always purchase your fireworks from a licensed retailer.

“The person who is using the fireworks needs to understand what the firework is going to do. Does this particular device shoot into the air? Does it explode on the ground? Do flame effects come out of the device? They need to understand what it’s going to do before they ignite it,”Ellis said.

If a firework doesn’t ignite the way it supposed to, officials say leave it alone for a few minutes before submerging it in water.

In the case of an emergency, always dial 911.

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