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Sparklers, Snakes, Smoke Bombs -- Oh, My! Do They Pose a Threat?

These are kid staples for Fourth of July, but they may be too dangerous for your children, one safety group says. Do you agree?

Aah, that mysterious golden trail of the sparkler making shapes in the summer night air…

The charcoal magic of the black pill that bubbles into a hissing snake…

The enchanting pastel cloud of smoke bomb …

Charming as this iconic page of our Independence Day memory book may be, personal fireworks can be a real dud. That sparkler we’re handing our preschooler is burning at more than 1,000 degrees.

"Fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs," said Judy Comoletti, with the National Fire Prevention Association. "The few seconds of pleasure those fireworks may bring are not worth the risk of injury, permanent scarring or even death."

The association urges everyone to treat all fireworks as pyrotechnics, safe only in the hands of trained professionals. Fireworks, from sparklers to aerial rockets, cause thousands of fires and serious injuries each year, including permanent scarring, loss of vision and dismemberment.

"Safe and sane fireworks don't exist," said Dr. John Hall, the association's division manager of fire analysis and research. "When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond."

Fireworks-related fires are to blame for at least $20 million in property loss every year. Bottle rockets are the chief culprit. Rockets land on rooftops or wedge in buildings, silently smoldering until they spark a fire.

"For most people, their family and their home represent the hard work of a lifetime and their hopes for the future," Hall said. "No one would risk losing what's most important to them if they understood the dangers of fireworks. There are safer alternatives to using fireworks on the Fourth of July."

Public fireworks displays are the answer, fire safety experts say. Conducted by trained professionals, today’s fireworks shows, often choreographed to music, are the best entertainment bang for your buck.

What will you do the Fourth of July? Do you think the tradition of personal fireworks is fizzling out? Have you let your kids hold sparklers or light up snakes?

Are you bothered by people who bring their own fireworks to public displays? How much, if any, will your family spend on fireworks this Independence Day? Do you know anyone who has been injured by fireworks?

Kenneth Erdey June 29, 2011 at 11:47 AM
For five years I volunteered for the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance camp "I Am Me". This camp allows kids who have survived their burn injuries to have a week of fun in their life and feel as normal as it can be. Many of these children were burned in house fires and other typical household accidents that would cause these burns. However a substantial number of children were there because their parent handed them a sparkler. That sparkler burns at a temperature of 2000 degrees. It frightens me that a parent who would scream at their child for going near the oven set to 400 degrees, but will turn around and hand them a soldering gun. The children at camp I Am Me are there to forget about what they deal with on a daily basis. They lose so much more than you realize. They have no self confidence. They wear sweaters in the dead of summer so no one can see their scars. The simple activity of going to the pool is a nightmare due to the stares and whispers about their appearence. My children have never "played" with fireworks. Even the "SAFE" ones. No Firework is safe. If you think they are, I will introduce you to a couple 8 years-olds who would disagree with you. And before you ask me well how do I know, I am a burn survivor. I have lived their life. Please don't make your kids live ours. Put away the sparklers. Thanks for your article Robyn.
Nick Beam June 30, 2011 at 08:41 PM
What do taxes have to do with this article?
Nick Beam July 01, 2011 at 02:11 PM
I'm sure you know that you can email the editor directly... but nothing says crazy like screaming about taxes on an article about firework safety...
Jason July 01, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Who is screaming? Crazy is saying nothing and being a lemming. And fireworks safety is the closest the Patch gets to talking about a fire department.

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