The flashes and booms of fireworks on the Fourth of July are a tradition almost as old as America itself. But – as with any time you are dealing with fire – fireworks safety should be top of mind.
In the days leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Founding Father John Adams predicted in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that the occasion would be “solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
As anticipated, fireworks were part of the first organized Independence Day celebrations in Philadelphia and Boston in 1777 and have been representative of the holiday’s festivities ever since. It doesn’t feel like the Fourth of July without seeing sparklers twirling in the dark or hearing the popping and sizzling of firecrackers late into the night.
During your summer celebrations, practice these fireworks safety tips to make sure that the only flashing red, white and blue lights that you see are in the sky, not on top of a police car.
Fireworks Safety Stats
Fireworks can cause serious burns and other life-changing injuries to eyes, ears and appendages, and can potentially be fatal.
There were an estimated 15,600 injuries bad enough to require medical treatment and a minimum of 18 deaths due to fireworks-related incidents in 2020, according to the latest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Fireworks Annual Report.
Not surprisingly, the CPSC reports 66% of the fireworks-related emergency room visits occur in the month surrounding July Fourth.
Most incidents are due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, but an estimated 900 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers.
An estimated 19,500 fires are started by fireworks annually, according to the National Fire Protection Association. And as you might imagine, more fires are reported on Independence Day than any other day of the year.
All fireworks are illegal except for sparklers and fountains, which can only be legally used by people 16 or older.
The sale and use of fireworks known as “sparking devices” are allowed by New York state law in cities and counties where a law has not been enacted against them.
Counties that prohibit the sale and use and of sparkling devices are Bronx, Columbia, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Schenectady, Suffolk and Westchester.
Sparkling devices are defined as ground-based or handheld and produce a shower of colored sparks and flames, audible crackling or whistling and smoke. The law limits the size, type and construction.
It is unlawful to sell, possess or use fireworks anywhere in the state without a valid permit. Those 16 years of age or older can lawfully buy, possess and use certain sparkling devices and novelties. Permissible fireworks include handheld or ground-based sparklers, snakes and glow worms, smoke devices and trick noisemakers.
It is illegal for private citizens to use, possess or sell fireworks, or to purchase them legally elsewhere and transport them into the state. The law prohibits any article designed to produce a visible or audible effect.
Legal fireworks include ground-based and handheld sparkling devices, fountains, illuminating torches, wheels, spinners, party poppers, snappers, toy smoke devices, snakes and glow worms. Any firecrackers, rockets, mortars or any other device that launches a projectile and/or makes a “bang” are illegal.
Fireworks Safety Tips
Advice from the National Safety Council and CPSC on how to practice proper fireworks safety.
- One of the best fireworks safety tips to follow is to never use fireworks illegally. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to go to a public show put on by professionals. If you do choose to use fireworks legally, use them away from people, houses and flammable materials.
- Never light fireworks: indoors, in a container, in your hands or when impaired.
- Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting.
- Never point or throw fireworks at anyone or anything.
- Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
- Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby to fully put out fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire. Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
- Do not underestimate sparklers: Sparklers burn at around 2,000 degrees, which is hot enough to melt some metals. They can quickly ignite clothing and children have gotten severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. If sparklers are legal where you live, don’t let young children handle, and closely supervise older children.
- Remember that kids imitate adults. Do not operate fireworks irresponsibility in front of children and teach them to understand the dangers.
How will you be celebrating the Fourth of July this year? How do you feel about fireworks? Tell us in the comments.
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