State Fire Marshal Urges Safety with Fireworks
That’s especially true with the more powerful consumer-grade devices such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, sky lanterns, and Roman candles.
“Fireworks are a risky thrill and are best left to professionals,” State Fire Marshal Julie Secontine said. “If you do plan to ignite your own fireworks, remember, you are playing with explosives that if used incorrectly, can cause irreparable injury and harm. Both consumers and certified fireworks retailers must make safety their top priority and responsibility.”
According to the latest national data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 230 people go to the emergency room daily with injuries from fireworks and in 2014 at least 11 resulted in death. Most emergency room visits were for the treatment of burns. The most common injuries were to the eyes, hands, head, and face. Most affected were bystanders, rather than the activators of the fireworks.
In Michigan, low impact fireworks (ground-based items such as sparklers, toy snakes, snaps, and poppers) are legal for sale and use. Be sure to check local ordinances for other limitations on the use of fireworks.
State law requires consumer-grade fireworks only be ignited from personal property. It is illegal to ignite fireworks on public property (including streets and sidewalks), school property, church property, or another person’s property without their express permission. State law makes it illegal to discharge fireworks when intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. When fire-related incidents involve consumer, low impact, or illegal fireworks resulting in property damage, injury or death of another person, individuals are subject to being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years and fines of up to $10,000 or both, depending upon the severity of the crime.
“The Bureau of Fire Services fire inspectors are issuing tickets to sellers who are non-compliant with the Fireworks Safety Act,” said Secontine. “We must ensure fireworks retailers operate their businesses safely to protect the public. Always buy from state-certified fireworks retailers. All state-certified retailers are required to prominently display their licenses.”
Secontine encourages people to enjoy professional fireworks displays by attending events run by their municipalities. If consumer fireworks are used at home, here are safety tips to protect lives and property.
- Always purchase fireworks from an authorized retailer as evidenced by a displayed license and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Never purchase fireworks packaged in brown paper.
- Use of fireworks and sparklers should always be supervised by an adult.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance.
- Always ensure that people and pets are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Light fireworks outdoors on a driveway or other paved surface at least 25 feet away from houses and highly flammable materials such as dry grass or mulch.
- Always keep a bucket of water or a running garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Douse spent fireworks and sparklers in a bucket of water before discarding them.
- Allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Children under 15 years of age accounted for 35% of the estimated 2014 injuries.
- Place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
- Try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Point or throw fireworks at other people.
- Carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- Purchase or use unlabeled fireworks, experiment with or make your own fireworks.
- Re-light “dud” fireworks that have not fully functioned; (instead, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).
Secontine also warns of the dangers of sparklers. Children are being injured by being poked with sparkler wires and are being badly burned by sparklers each year.
“More than 50 percent of sparkler-related injuries happen to kids under age 14 across the country,” she said. “Sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit which can cause third degree burns. They can quickly ignite clothing and can cause grass fires if thrown on the ground. Always promptly dispose of used sparklers in a bucket of water.”
To learn more about fireworks safety, the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, or obtain a list of state-certified fireworks retailers, go to the Bureau of Fire Services website.