I am affected by what I see. Mountain vistas, nighttime cityscapes, autumn forests, clear night skies far from the city, pictures of my family – I can feel myself fall into them. And fireworks! Those summertime delights of color, exploding in and falling from the sky, either viewed in relative solitude from afar, or surrounded by crowds sharing in the awe of the display, hearing the music to which the dancing light is choreographed, and smelling the wisps of smoke in the air… A professional fireworks show is a true gift for the senses.
But the fireworks used by non-professionals are another story. According to June, 2013 reports from both the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately 9,000 people each year go to a hospital to be treated for fireworks-related injuries, and there are an annual 5 to 10 deaths from fireworks (either from direct injury or secondary to fires). In recent years, the average annual number of fires started by fireworks was between 18,000 and 20,000.
I grew up in a state where consumer fireworks were illegal. That didn’t prevent their use. One could drive a short distance over the state border to another state where they were legal, and wouldn’t you know it – there were multiple fireworks stores right over the border. And one frequently had friends with older siblings (or even parents) who made that drive to make that purchase, even if one’s own parents had repeatedly told one that fireworks were dangerous, and that one should stay away from them. Hey, if all these other parents let their kids use them, fireworks couldn’t be that bad. And, as the kids and their parents said repeatedly, they were “only bottle rockets.”
Well, it turns out that one’s own parents were correct (as occurred (and still occurs) with annoying frequency) – those things did not necessarily shoot off in the intended direction. And sometimes they would fizzle out, only to explode right before someone reached out to pick up the “dud.” My pyrotechnic youthful rebellion was short-lived, since it was quickly apparent to me that you could put an eye out with those things, or worse. Turns out that in 2012, over 10% of fireworks injuries were due to bottle rockets. (And 17% of total fireworks injuries last year involved people’s eyes, so you definitely could put an eye out.)
But sparklers are harmless, right? Nope. According to the NFPA, the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’ll hurt. Or catch your clothing on fire.
And the very best amateur fireworks displays don’t hold a candle, so to speak, to the professional displays. Buy some glow-stick bracelets, grab some friends, and find a good spot for the municipal fireworks shows. Bring a blanket to stake your spot, bring some food, bring some bug spray, bring your sense of awe and wonder, and have a safe, spectacular Independence Day celebration!
Note: my statistics were gleaned at the following two websites: