Pyrotechnics, Picnics Place Premium on Prevention

June 30, 2005

Weather forecasts are mixed in the Pacific Northwest for this year’s Fourth of July observances, but fair weather or foul, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) warn that careless handling of fireworks and outdoor grills can ruin parties and picnics – and entire summers.

An estimated 23,200 fireworks fires in 2002 caused approximately $35 million in property loss and almost 60 percent of those fires occurred during the month of July around the Independence Day holiday, according to a USFA report released last week. According to Michael Brown, under secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and head of FEMA, more than half of these injuries occur the first week in July.

“Parades and cookouts and fireworks are hallmarks of an American Independence Day,” Brown said. “But improper use of fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a tragic one. Users should heed safety advice on packaging and follow the fireworks safety tips of FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration and other groups to keep this holiday a safe and enjoyable one.”

“Fireworks account for a large number of preventable fires and injuries,” Brown continued. “We’re not trying to take the fun out of Independence Day celebrations but parents must use extreme caution in assuring that children are properly supervised in the safe handling of legal fireworks. Fireworks should be used only with extreme caution. Older children should be closely supervised, and younger children should not be allowed to play with fireworks.”

Thousands of serious fireworks-related incidents typically injure eyes, heads and hands each year- almost 70 percent of the 9,300 injuries were inflicted on victims between one and 24 years old and children under age 15 suffered 45 percent. Firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets are the leading contributors to these injuries.

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