Safety first this Fourth of July

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With communities throughout Ohio cancelling their Fourth of July celebrations due to COVID-19, officials are concerned a rise in illegal fireworks displays could lead to more Ohioans spending their holiday in the emergency room.

This Fourth of July, the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of State Fire Marshal and the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association are urging people to put safety first and avoid illegal fireworks practices.

“We encourage Ohioans to celebrate the July 4th holiday, but we want them to do it safely and legally,” said Ken Klouda, chief of the State Fire Marshal’s Fire Prevention Bureau.

Popular fireworks such as Roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers can be legally purchased in Ohio, but must be transported out of state within 48 hours. Only licensed exhibitors are permitted to discharge these devices in the state.

The State Fire Marshal’s office, as well as many local fire departments, have already seen a surge in complaints regarding unlicensed fireworks displays – putting families in danger and tying up the resources of law enforcement.

“These neighborhood fireworks displays are disruptive to families, disruptive to pets and wildlife, and can create a greater opportunity for devastating injuries,” said Chief Jonathan Westendorf, president of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association. “The risk is real. Something can always happen.”

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2019 Fireworks Annual Report, roughly 7,300 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms between June 21-July 21, 2019.

Trick and novelty fireworks – those that smoke, sparkle, snap and snake – are the only types of fireworks that can be legally discharged by consumers.

“Keep in mind that while sparklers may seem like harmless toys, they’re not without their risks,” Klouda said. “Some of them can reach temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees and cause serious burn injuries, especially to young children.”

Ohioans are encouraged to follow these important safety tips when using trick or novelty fireworks:

• Only handle and discharge trick and novelty devices under adult supervision.

• Educate yourself on the hazards of each type of device being used.

• Carefully read and follow the label directions on the packaging of a trick and novelty device.

• Light only one sparkler at a time and hold it away from your body, as well as others.

• Sparklers should only be used by someone 12 years of age or older.

• Sparkler wires should immediately be placed in a bucket of water to avoid injury, because they remain hot for a few minutes after burnout.

• Consider substituting sparklers for a safer alternative, such as glow sticks.