By Aaron C. Ramirez
Every year during the Fourth of July, Americans across the country gather together to watch firework displays to ring in the birth of our nation. These shows are usually looked over by professionals and local fire departments. Unfortunately, many fireworks are purchased and handle by consumers incorrectly. Injuries, and even worse, death has occurred for many no matter how cautious the user is being. As fun as fireworks can be, many are not prepared for the many things that can go wrong.
Illinois is seeing a huge spike in firework related deaths and injuries. The victims tend to consist of men over the age of 22.. Their injuries affect their hands, eyes, genitals, and faces. Many resulting in second-degree burns. for the past five decades, Illinois has had strict fireworks law, yet the state has seen 16 dismemberment or amputation injuries due to fireworks, and the numbers are rising. 57 percent of reported injuries are caused by the mishandling and malfunctioning fireworks.
This year, Scott McKee, 37, of Hebron, IN was fatally injured and another unidentified male was maimed when the victim was placing a 3-inch firework mortar into a tube. “By all reports, he must have been too close or standing over the tube and it went off, causing massive blunt force trauma to the head and face,” said Hebron Police Chief Josh Noel. “It was a very tragic accident.”
Many injuries are occurring because consumers are purchasing fireworks in neighboring states (Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri) and transporting them back home to Illinois. It’s not only illegal to purchase consumer fireworks but also to have possession and use said fireworks. In many cases it is illegal to cross state lines with them in one’s possession as well. These laws are outlined in the Pyrotechnic Use Act (PUA). Violators can be sentenced to one year in prison and a $2500 fine.
Sparklers are still illegal in Chicago on city property. The month before the Fourth of July and following estimates 14 percent of injuries are caused by sparklers. They can burn up to 1800 degrees fahrenheit. Glass can melt at this temperature. Local authorities though do not tend to enforce many of these laws. An officer usually only issues a warning if a complaint is issued while you’re on your own private property.
State Rep. Barbara Wheeler is sponsoring a bill in Illinois is trying to legalize fireworks sales in state even though related injuries are on the rise. Many bordering states retailers recite their biggest consumers are those from Illinois. Wheeler wants to keep the money in state and face the fact that Illinois citizens are buying fireworks. The bill is in light that these incidences are only a handful and many consumers are legally purchasing fireworks and handling with care. The bill will require purchasers of fireworks be at least 18 years of age, ignite them at least 200 feet from any structure, and requires retailers to register with the state fire marshal.
Of those injured many are kids and teens. This holiday season, Enrique Anaya, 14, was critically injured when a firework blew up in the teen’s face. The mortar malfunctioned and caused facial trauma to the right side of his face. Anaya lost his right eye and being treated for burns to his head. The faulty mortar was purchased in Wisconsin. Enrique Anaya’s life won’t be the same again.
Here are some fireworks safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
- Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
- Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.