With 4th of July upon us, Americans everywhere will be shooting up fireworks to celebrate our country's independence. However, this tradition can be a dangerous one.
South Walton Fire District says under Florida law, only sparklers, approved by the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal, are legal for consumer usage.
It is illegal to use exploding and/or flying fireworks in Florida, which include: shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers.
As a general guideline, anything that flies through the air or explodes is not allowed for consumer use. Floridians should not sign "waivers" in order to purchase fireworks. Signing a waiver will not clear a consumer of responsibility should you be caught illegally using fireworks, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
There is still a risk of injury with the use of legal sparklers. When lit, some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees - at least 200 degrees hotter than standard butane lighters. For a list of hundreds of sparklers that are legal to use in Florida, as well as safety tips, visit the State Fire Marshal's web site at Fireworks Information.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says most fireworks-related injuries occur to the hands or head, many of which were a result of misuse or malfunctions of fireworks.
A study said "Misuse included: igniting fireworks too close to someone; lighting fireworks in one’s hand; setting off fireworks improperly; having lit fireworks too close to other fireworks/explosives; and touching lit fireworks," the report states. "Typical malfunctions included: errant flight paths; early or late ignition; tip-over incidents; and blowout. In addition, debris from fireworks was involved in some of the injuries."
Even though sparklers are legal in many jurisdictions, they accounted for 26 percent of all firework injuries in 2015. By comparison, bottle rockets accounted for 11 percent of injuries, and firecrackers were blamed for 16 percent of injuries.
Homemade and altered fireworks accounted for 21 percent of firework injuries.
With a few simple precautions, you can stay safe this July 4.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these tips to help you avoid the emergency room.
• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
• Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
• Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
• After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.