By Chad Frey
This is the week to celebrate the nation's independence — and many will choose the tradition of lighting fireworks as part of the revelry.
That tradition can prove dangerous.
Last year, according to the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, more than 133 people were injured by fireworks, including sparklers. Via Christi Regional Burn Center of Wichita treated more 15 patients of all ages for fireworks injuries, with two being admitted for inpatient care.
Newton Fire/EMS call volume increased 45 percent on July 4, 2013, and 60 percent of those calls were related to fireworks. At one point Fire/EMS was working five incidents simultaneously — the system is designed for three events at a time.
"It would be good if you approached the holiday thoughtfully with safety in mind. Supervise children when they are using fireworks," said Scott Metzler, deputy Fire/EMS Chief for Newton. "Ensure there is a readily available water source in case something gets away. It is a good idea to pay attention to wind speeds and conditions — make sure that anything airborne will not drift into a combustible area."
In Newton, this is the only week of the year use and sale of fireworks is allowed.
"Midnight on the fourth is the end of the party," Metzler said.
The state fire marshal's office issued tips and guidelines for fireworks safety this week — the timing is not a coincidence. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 65 percent of the fireworks injuries nationwide in 2013 occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4.
"Many fireworks related injuries can be avoided by following a few common sense rules," said Doug Jorgensen, state fire marshal.
His office offered the following guidelines:
• Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks. • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks. • Fireworks should only be used outdoors. • Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks. • Know your fireworks. Read the caution label before igniting. • Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them. • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks. • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water. • Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor garbage can. • Avoid using homemade fireworks or illegal explosives. They can kill you! • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and bottle rockets, to the fire or police department.
And note these special safety tips, if using sparklers:
• Always remain standing while using sparklers. • Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers. • Never hold, or light, more than one sparkler at a time. • Never throw sparklers. • Sparkler wire and stick remain hot long after the flame has gone out. Be sure to drop spent sparklers in a bucket of water. • Teach children not to wave sparklers, or run, while holding sparklers.