News | July 1, 2021

Following safety precautions is paramount with at home fireworks

By Fire Inspector Brandon Barksdale DLA Installation Management Richmond Fire Prevention Office

Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management at Richmond’s Fire and Emergency Services and the Fire Prevention Office are looking forward to the upcoming 4th of July holiday, and we have some tips to help you enjoy the holiday safely.

The June-July timeframe is when many of us engage in the most American of activities: spending time with friends and family, eating and drinking and watching firework shows. Professional firework displays are fun and exciting events. Many of us try to recreate the excitement from our own homes and buy our own fireworks, often leading to disastrous results.

A report by the National Fire Protection Association estimated that 19,500 fires, started by fireworks, were reported to local fire departments in the U.S. in 2018. The report further states that these fires caused five deaths, 46 injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage.

According to the NFPA, brush, grass, or forest fires accounted for three out of every five reported fires started by fireworks in 2014–2018; nine out of every ten of the fireworks fires in this same period were outdoor fires. While only 9% of the fireworks fires in this period were structure fires, these incidents accounted for almost all the fire deaths: three-quarters of the fire injuries, and 45% of the fire property damage. People often forget that fireworks are both incendiary (designed to cause fires) and explosive devices. The heat generated by a sparkler, for example, exceeds 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt glass.

While it is possible to enjoy fireworks from home, the risks involved are significant. Setting off your own fireworks may not seem like a big deal, but do you know how many people are injured every year using them? The Consumer Product Safety Commission said in 2019 that, “fireworks were involved with an estimated 10,000 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments.” That year, between June 21 and July 21, an estimated 7,300 fireworks-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms, according to the CPSC. Of those, 36% were to children younger than 15. “An estimated 900 emergency department-treated injuries were associated with sparklers and 400 with bottle rockets,” the CPSC states.

Please take it from us at your Fire Prevention Office: let the trained professionals handle the dangerous part, so you and yours can simply enjoy the fun.

However, if you do choose to use legal fireworks, there are ways to use them so that you reduce the risk of injury to yourself and others:

  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks. Older children should use them only under close adult supervision.
  • Never use fireworks while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Wear protective eyewear if you are handling or standing nearby fireworks.
  • Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands.
  • Do not light fireworks indoors. They should be lit away from people, homes, and flammable material.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Only light one firework at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting it.
  • Never light fireworks in a container.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that do not go off or in case of fire.
  • Never use illegal fireworks.

Be aware of those around you who might not react well to fireworks. Small children and pets can be frightened and easily overwhelmed by the lights and noises. Veterans who might be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can have negative emotional reactions, with some reporting powerful flashbacks to their time in combat. The Veterans’ Administration urges people to do what they can to be respectful of veterans and their situations.

Do you know which fireworks are allowed where you live and which are not? The state Fire Marshall’s office has a list of fireworks that are permitted statewide, but your city or county may have more strict laws; so be sure to check what is allowed near you. According to Chapter 56 of the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, no one may store fireworks in or near their home. Plan your activities and only buy what you will need for that day’s celebration. You can also contact the Fire Marshall’s office to find out where and how your unused fireworks can be safely disposed of.

Fireworks of any kind, to include smaller devices such as firecrackers and sparklers, are prohibited on the Defense Supply Center Richmond. If you have any questions about fireworks, firework safety, or fireworks codes and laws, please contact us at dscr.fireprevention@dla.mil, or by phone at 804-279-6782.

FAST FACT

More than 28 % of fires started by fireworks between 2014–2018 were reported on the Fourth of July. Looking at just the Fourth of July, half of the reported fires on that day were started by fireworks.