Leave the fireworks fun to the pros

Even though it's illegal to use most types of fireworks in Ohio, they still cause injuries throughout the state. Ther
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Even though it's illegal to use most types of fireworks in Ohio, they still cause injuries throughout the state.

There have been only three documented incidents in the city of people injured by fireworks in the past two years, said Rudy Ruiz, Sandusky Fire department safety inspector.

But nationwide in 2006 there were 9,200 fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency rooms, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. One-third of those injured were younger than 15.

"They're explosives basically," Ruiz said.

The big fireworks that create bomb-like booms and spread colorful sparks high into the air are not legally allowed to be set off in the state, unless the person launching them is certified by the state, Huron fire Chief Paul Berlin said.

"You can buy them at fireworks stores in the state, but I believe you sign a form that says you won't fire them off in the state," Berlin said.

Even the "safer" fireworks can cause problems.

Surprisingly, the sparkler is one of the leading culprits for firework injuries, said Huron firefighter Doug Nash. Sparklers, which are legal to use in Ohio, accounted for 21 percent of all injuries from fireworks, the NFPA reported.

"They can reach up to 1,800 degrees," Ruiz said. "That's an extremely hot piece of metal. That can melt gold."

Ruiz recommends having a bucket of water nearby when using sparklers. Any discarded metal should be extinguished in water.

Parents should exercise caution when giving children sparklers.

"It would be up to the adult to determine how mature they are," Ruiz said, adding that parents should not give children lighters or matches.

"They have a tendency to kind of hang onto them," he said.

One of the safety concerns caused by fireworks are smoldering embers that can possibly land on a roof and ignite a blaze.

Berlin said Huron has not had such a fire during his tenure with the department.

Besides possible injury, using fireworks can bring criminal penalties.

"They can't use the type of fireworks that you get at the firework stores," Ruiz said. "You can purchase them here, but you have to take them out of the state within 48 hours."

There can be both city and state penalties for being caught using or possessing fireworks, Sandusky police Lt. Phil Frost said.

Last year Sandusky police responded to 120 fireworks complaints, the bulk of which were around the July 4 holiday, Frost said. This year police have already received 20 such calls.

Whoever violates the city ordinance faces a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

If someone does use fireworks illegally, that shouldn't be a deterrent to seeking help if innocent play backfires.

"I hope that they would seek medical attention," Ruiz said. "I wouldn't want them to be afraid to go to the hospital."

There are plenty of ways to enjoy fireworks and not get arrested or burned.

"Let the professionals do it," Ruiz said. "We have multiple shows around here. Just go out there and enjoy those shows."

Fireworks safety tips

* Always wear safety goggles when lighting fireworks.

* Always wear closed-toe shoes when using sparklers.

* Make sure you have water handy -- a hose or buckets of water.

* Never re-light a "dud" firework. Instead, you should wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

Source: National Council on Fireworks Safety