With plenty of boom and flash to light up the night sky, fireworks are a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but they can also be dangerous.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable Independence Day, Marshfield fire chief Michael Taylor and Freddie Savage with Cox EMS gave their insights about fireworks, firework-related incidents and safety measures.
According to Taylor, locally, the Marshfield Fire Department hasn't had a lot of building-related fires caused by fireworks. The most common cases they deal with involve brush fires.
"People will shoot fireworks and they land in the dry field across the way and start a fire," said Taylor. "Sometimes, even in town, we'll see that, but most typically it’s outside of town where we encounter that. In both cases, we've had that."
Seven years ago, Taylor said they had a house fire incident where a firework was shot and landed inside some boxes in the garage. It ended up causing a fire in the garage. That's just one of the cases Taylor has seen. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nationwide, an average of 18,500 fires a year are attributed to fireworks, and these include structure fires, vehicle fires and outside fires. These fires cause an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries and an average of $43 million in direct property damage. In Webster County, Taylor said there haven’t been any deaths related to fireworks, but there have been minor injuries that happen every year.
"We do have some minor injuries, like someone throwing fireworks and not getting them out of their hand in time," said Taylor. "Those type of injuries do occur."
According to Freddie Savage, regional manager with Cox EMS, 99% of injuries are caused by someone holding a firework in their hand. Savage said last year, there were only two cases of minor injuries related to fireworks in Webster County, but in the past there were more serious injuries.
"In the past, we did have cases where someone ended up losing an eye or a finger due to fireworks," said Savage. "Thankfully, we didn’t have anything like that last year, and we're hoping we don’t have any cases like that during this Fourth of July holiday, either."
One of Taylor’s concerns is sparklers, which are generally considered safe to use. According to the National Safety Council, sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet.
"Looking at the National Fire Safety Council statistics, sparklers count for 25% of emergency room visits nationwide when it comes to fireworks-related injuries," said Taylor. "A quarter of the visits are directly related to sparkler injuries."
Taylor has seen many sparkler-related injuries where children have burned their hands. He recommended parents take extra caution when they hand sparklers to children. Another firework device that raises some concerns is lanterns. Taylor said there have been many communities that have banned lanterns, but Webster County isn’t one of them. The problem with lanterns, according to Taylor, is that they fly through the air at long distances and carry a flame with them, which can result in grass fires, depending on where they land.
"The statement 'What comes up must come down' applies with lanterns," said Taylor. "Whether or not that flame is completely out when they come down is a variable, so we do occasionally see more often than not grass fires attributed to the lanterns. I don't recommend the use of lanterns simply because you can't control where they're going to land, and that fire's going to be active when it lands."
Taylor and Savage both shared some tips to keep people safe for the Fourth of July, including not allowing young children to handle fireworks and providing older children with adult supervision when they use fireworks. Taylor added that you should not throw fireworks at anyone or anything. He noted you should not to try and relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
"If they don't go off, don't try to relight those and don't handle them," said Taylor. "Just leave them where they lay. After a period of time, I would recommend like a five gallon bucket, if you got some with malfunctions, fill a bucket full of water and throw them in there. Let them set a while and soak. If you got fireworks that they’ve set off and they’re just laying around, they've went off okay and they're not malfunctioning, but in many cases they still have embers in them. I would recommend throwing them in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash because if they still got embers in them you may end up with your trash can on fire."
In the event of injuries, Savage advised calling 911 and seeking medical attention immediately. He said with minor burns, you should cool it with room temperature water and do not use ice or apply any cream to it.
"Ice applied to a burn can cause more damage," said Savage. "The cold can impact the nerves, so you need to make sure to use cool water, not ice water."
The City of Marshfield has rules in place regarding the discharge of fireworks and when consumers can use them. The discharge, detonation or shooting of consumer fireworks shall only be permitted at the following times:
1.) Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on June 20 through July 2 of each year;
2.) Between the hours of 11 a.m. and midnight on July 3 through July 4 of each year;
3.) Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on July 5 through July 10 of each year;
4.) If July 4 falls on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, then the discharge, denotation or shooting of consumer fireworks shall also be permitted between 11 a.m. and midnight on the immediately preceding and following Fridays and Saturdays; and
5.) Between the hours of 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 and 1 a.m. on Jan. 1 of each year.
As mentioned in the City of Marshfield’s code, the discharge of fireworks is unlawful in the following:
a.) It shall be unlawful and an offense for any person to shoot off, discharge or explode torpedoes, firecrackers, giant-crackers, cannon-crackers or other explosive devices of whatever kind, or any skyrockets, Roman candles or other exploding fireworks or fire display of any kind whatsoever on that part of Clay, Jefferson, Crittenden and Madison Streets composing what is commonly known as the public square or within three hundred (300) feet in any direction from the other boundaries of said public square.
b.) In any other part of the City of Marshfield other than designated in this subsection, it shall be unlawful and an offense for any person to shoot off, discharge or explode any torpedoes, firecrackers, giant-crackers, cannon-crackers or other explosive devices of whatever kind, or any skyrockets, Roman candles or other exploding fireworks or fire display of any kind whatsoever within five hundred (500) feet of any public parade, public meeting or lawful assembly of people during such time as such parade, meeting or assembly is being held or while the people are assembling or dispersing therefrom.
c.) It shall be unlawful for any person to ignite or discharge any fireworks within any of the following areas in the City without first obtaining a permit:
1.) Within six hundred (600) feet of any church, hospital, asylum or public school or within one hundred (100) feet of where fireworks are stored, sold or offered for sale.
2.) Within or throw the same from a motor vehicle, or place or throw the same into or at a motor vehicle, or at or near any person or group of people.
3.) Within three hundred (300) feet of any gasoline pump, gasoline filling station, or any non-permanent structure where fireworks are stored, sold or offered for sale.
Under the City of Marshfield Code, Section 100.240 for penalties, upon conviction of a violation of any such provision of this code or of any such ordinance, rule, regulation, notice or order, the violator shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment; provided that, in any case wherein the penalty for an offense is fixed by a Statute of the State, the statutory penalty, and no other, shall be imposed for such offense, except that imprisonments may be in the city prison or workhouse instead of the county jail.