Fire and health officials urge caution with use of fireworks as Fourth of July holiday nears

Posted at 6:45 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 18:45:52-04

When it comes to fireworks, it is safest to leave it to the professionals.

But the reality is, many do not - and many injuries result.

During a safety demonstration conducted by the Detroit Fire Department on Tuesday, a mortar blast blew apart a watermelon.

The force of the blast could have caused catastrophic injuries to a person or pet, according to Dr. Brian O'Neil, Specialist in Chief, Emergency Medicine, at the Detroit Medical Center.

"Burns are the primary thing, but we also see lacerations, we see fractures and we see amputations," O'Neil said.

Fireworks of many types can all be legally sold and purchased in Michigan. Mortars are not for sale to consumers, but seem to be readily available, according to Detroit Fire Department Captain Christopher Dixon.

He told 7 Action News all fireworks present danger, if not handled and used properly, including a popular imitation sword that shoots flames.

"The directions say use only under adult supervision and do not point it at anyone," Dixon said. 

Dixon demonstrated on a tee shirt what happens when the lit firework is pointed at a person.  Burn marks quickly became visible on the shirt. It eventually caught fire.

It is illegal for children and teens under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in Detroit, according to Detroit's fireworks ordinance.

Unused fireworks to be stored in a cool, dry place. In addition, officials offer these safety precautions:

  • 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 of rubbish
  • Don't ignite fireworks, especially around vehicles that may contain residual liquids, i.e. 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.
  • Keep a bucket of water handy. 

Nationally, 250 people a day will require emergency care for fireworks injury in the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July holiday, according to O'Neil. He said five times that number suffer injuries, including minor burns that may not necessitate a doctor's care.