Officials give tips to safely enjoy fireworks

Fireworks and Fourth of July festivities may come and go, but some resulting injuries are forever.

Local and state officials urge McHenry County residents to take safety precautions during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, particularly when operating fireworks.

Cary Fire Lt. Michael Douglass reminds the public to be aware of the risks of using fireworks and to never try to move a firework that didn’t fire. Even sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees, which is hot enough to melt metal, Douglass said.

“Leave the fireworks to the professionals,” Douglass said. “They’re trained to do it, and usually the fire departments are going to be there on standby in case something happens.”

Marengo Fire Lt. Noel Gaines said there weren’t any firework-related injuries reported last year.

He said it’s the parents that the department needs to worry about – even kids tell their parents to be safe while operating fireworks.

“Something we’re doing is working, which is a good thing,” Gaines said.

According to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, 115 people were injured by fireworks last year – 88 were male and 27 were female. First- and second-degree burns were the leading type of fireworks injury at 51 percent.

Registered nurse Karen Battaglia, trauma coordinator at Centegra’s McHenry campus, said the trauma center has witnessed significant injuries in the past few years, and she tries to remind the staff to be vigilant about spreading the word about fireworks safety.

“Respect the stuff you’re working with,” Battaglia said. “If you don’t know how to work with it, don’t play with it. Sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees, and we bake cookies at 350 degrees; people don’t think about these things.”

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal reminds the public that it is illegal to buy, use or possess commercial fireworks without a consumer display permit from local authorities, according to a news release. It also said sky lanterns are now on the list of illegal fireworks in Illinois.

The use or explosion of fireworks in Illinois is a Class B misdemeanor; the maximum penalty is six months in jail and a $1,500 fine. According to the National Fire Protection Association, two out of five fires reported in U.S. during Fourth of July celebrations are caused by fireworks.

2012 Illinois firework injury statistics

• Adults who were 22 and older were the highest injured percentage and represent 50 percent of last year’s fireworks injuries. Those 11 to 16 years old represent 17 percent.

• Fingers and hands were the most affected body parts, at 37 percent of fireworks injuries. Eyes were second at 15 percent of fireworks injuries, and the head/face were third at 12 percent of fireworks injuries.

Source: Illinois State Fire Marshal

Safety tips

• Wear safety glasses when using fireworks and sparklers.

• Never use or play with any type of firework near a vehicle.

• Be aware of where you point fireworks and where they will land.

• Do not consume alcohol when using fireworks.

Source: Public Information Officer Aimee Knop, McHenry County Sheriff’s Office

Illinois Poison Control safety tips

• The most common calls to the IPC during the Fourth of July include glow sticks, fireworks, tiki torch lamp oil or lighter fluid, and food poisoning. The nitrates or chlorates from fireworks can impair the body’s ability to carry oxygen in the blood, and hydrocarbons from torch lamp oil or lighter fluid can cause lung problems if you breathe them in.

• Always keep flammables, including torch lamp oil, lighter fluid and fireworks, in their original containers and out of children’s reach.

• Call the IPC about specific product exposure recommendations.

Source: Illinois Poison Control Center

Learn more

For information about fireworks safety, visit fireworkssafety.org and www.sfm.illinois.gov.

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