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Fireworks Safety Tips from Fairfax County & Inova Hospital

About 18,000 fires were caused by fireworks in 2009, resulting in $38 million in damages, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments are urging area residents to use fireworks safely and refrain from using illegal fireworks as the Fourth of July nears.

According to the National Fire Protection Administration, more fires are reported on the Fourth of July than any other day, with fireworks accounting for more than half of the reported fires.

In 2009, fireworks caused about 18,000 reported fires, which resulted in about 30 civilian injuries and $38 million in property damage, according to the NFPA. 

Emergency rooms treated about 8,800 people for fireworks-related injuries that year, the organization said. A little over half of fireworks injuries reported were burns, and about a quarter of them were contusions and lacerations. The risk of fireworks-related injuries was highest among youth age 10-14-year-old.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says the safest way to watch fireworks is to attend a public display. For those who do plan to use fireworks, the county fire and rescue department provided the following fireworks safety tips and guidelines:

  • Follow the manufacturer directions.
  • Have water available for extinguishing of discarded fireworks or an emergency.
  • Place legally purchased fireworks on a flat surface, clear of combustible materials and clear of all buildings.
  • Light only one firework at a time.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep bystanders at least 25 feet away from fireworks.
  • Do not permit young children to handle or light fireworks. 
    (Sparklers can reach a temperature of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

Dr. Robert Cates, medial director for Inova Fairfax Hospital's Emergency Department, has additional tips for firework safety. He says all types of fireworks, even sparklers, can cause burns, eye and other injuries. 

“Many people think that sparklers are harmless and they are often not as careful when using sparklers vs. other types of fireworks," he said in a press release. "While most patients with firework injuries can be treated and released, some can be serious and require an overnight stay or a transfer to a hospital with a burn unit.”

Cates said the National Council on Fireworks Safety has a list of safety tips area residents should keep in mind:  

  • Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers.
  • Never hold, or light, more than one sparkler at a time.
  • Sparklers remain hot after the flame has gone out. Drop spent sparklers in a bucket of water.
  • Teach children not to wave sparklers, or run, while holding sparklers
  • Closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks.
  • Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  • Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

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