Use fireworks with caution this July 4 holiday

Independence Day is Wednesday, which means a number of people will be shopping for fireworks for the holiday, if not already lighting them up this weekend.

That can represent a colorful home show of lights and sound — or a potential danger to the person firing off those pyrotechnics or, worse, to those watching nearby, especially children.

Even devices deemed suitable for public purchase carry some risk, be they a small sparkler or bottle rocket, Roman candle or other type of commercial firework.

“The safest way to enjoy fireworks is professional displays,” was Michigan State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer’s advice. “If you do plan to shoot your own fireworks, remember these are explosives and that if used incorrectly, can cause irreparable injury and harm.”

According to the latest national data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 11,100 fireworks-related injuries were reported in the U.S. in 2016, with four deaths. At least that was down from 2015, considered the worst year for fireworks injuries this century: 11,900 emergency room visits and 11 deaths.

Firework mishaps also account for about 20,000 fires each year; most notably, house fires.

In Michigan, consumer fireworks became legal Jan. 1, 2012, and must meet CPSC standards. They will only be sold to people age 18 or older. Low-impact fireworks — ground-based items such as sparklers, toy snakes, snaps, and poppers — are legal for sale and use.

State law requires that consumer-grade fireworks be ignited only from personal property. It is illegal to ignite fireworks on public property — including streets and sidewalks — or school property, church property or another person’s property without their permission.

Some tips for safer use of fireworks:

•Purchase fireworks from an authorized retailer and follow the manufacturer’s directions;

•Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance;

•Keep people and pets 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;

•Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap;

More than 50 percent of sparkler-related injuries in the U.S. happen to children younger than 14. Sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and have the potential to cause significant burn injuries.

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 at michigan.gov/bfs.

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