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Detroit fire officials urge safety when using fireworks

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Fireworks around the Fourth of July can make for a lot of oohs and ahhs.

A simulated garage fire, caused by fireworks, is extinguished as Detroit’s fire department gave a demonstration on fireworks safety at Engine 27, in Detroit on Tuesday.

But Detroit Fire Department Capt. Chris Dixon said Tuesday they can also make for a lot of ows.

“Fireworks of the past didn’t go ‘boom-bang-pow’ in the air, but what they’re selling now at all the fireworks tents are very powerful and can be very dangerous,” said Dixon, a senior fire prevention instructor with the department’s Fire Marshal Division. “We always see an increase in injuries around this time of year due to the improper use of fireworks.”

Dixon made the remarks during a news conference at the city’s Southwest Public Safety Center building on Fort Street between Junction Street and Clark Avenue.

He was joined by Brian O’Neil, the Detroit Medical Center’s specialist-in-chief of emergency medicine. O’Neil is also a professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine.

The duo teamed up to demonstrate how hazardous fireworks can be if not used properly.

Fireworks that are legal for sale and use in Michigan still have a huge potential for danger, O’Neil said.

“The dangers haven’t changed at all, the access has just increased,” he said. “Using them has to be done in a very controlled environment by an adult whose sober.”

During the month around the Fourth of July holiday, an average of 230 people across the country wind up in a hospital emergency rooms every day with fireworks-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

More than 50 percent of all firework injuries are burns and more than a third of all injuries from fireworks are on hands and fingers. After hands and fingers, the body parts that get hurt most often by fireworks are heads, faces and ears.

O’Neil added children younger than the age of 14 account for about a third of all fireworks-related injuries.

The next biggest group are males between 18 and 25 years-old, he said.

“Often they’re intoxicated or it’s not in a controlled environment,” he explained.

In the fire station’s back parking lot, Dixon demonstrated how destructive fireworks can be when not used properly.

He used a few types of different firecrackers and objects for the exercise, including a mortar placed under a watermelon and a roman candle shaped like a sword.

He also showed what can happen if fireworks are stored near a gas can in a hot garage and someone tosses a cigarette or firecracker into it.

“The fireworks we have now aren’t our mom’s and dad’s fireworks,” he said. “They’re very dangerous, so you should be careful where you store them. Have adult supervision when using them. Keep small children and animals away from them. And no alcohol.”

Fireworks safety tips

Detroit Fire Department officials recommend the following when using fireworks:

■Make certain an adult is present whenever fireworks are used.

■Always read and follow instructions on fireworks packaging.

■Don’t give any type of firecracker or sparkler to young children.

■Ignite fireworks outside and away from the house, garage or any area with dry brush or rubbish.

■Keep pets away from the area where you are lighting fireworks.

■Don’t ignite fireworks inside any container, glass bottle or metal cylinders.

■Never experiment with fireworks, especially around vehicles that may contain residual flammable liquids such as gasoline.

■Light fireworks one at a time.

■Never hold a firework in your hand while lighting it.

■Always keep a safe distance.

■Never try to re-light fireworks that malfunction.

■Store unused fireworks in a cool, dry place.

■Keep a bucket of water handy.

Source: Detroit Fire Department

(313) 222-2058

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez