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FOR RELEASE: June 27, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

This Year Leave Fireworks to the Pros

What burns at temperatures of more than 1000 degrees, has caught clothing on fire, and people routinely hand to children, especially around key holidays?

Sparklers -- and other types of fireworks, of course!

Sparklers and all fireworks are, after all, explosives, but some people, in an attempt to capture the excitement of Fourth of July festivities at home, still insist on using them, often resulting in serious injuries. Children ages 10 to 14 suffer from fireworks-related injuries more than any other age group.

"Most children are thrilled by fireworks, but unfortunately, they are not always able to handle them correctly," said Martha Collar, coordinator, Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Last year, more than 4,700 children ages 14 and under suffered from fireworks-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Two-thirds of all fireworks-related injuries occur in July. Sparklers were the type of fireworks most frequently associated with injury among children ages 4 and under.

Many parents and caregivers overestimate their children's abilities to use fireworks, creating a dangerous environment for injuries. Of all fireworks-related injuries, almost 45 percent are to children ages 14 and under. Fireworks-related injuries usually involve the hands/fingers, eyes or head and can sometimes result in amputations, blinding -- even deaths. More than half of fireworks-related injuries involve burns.

Consumer fireworks are legal for public sale in many states. These devices include fountains, bottle rockets, cylindrical fountains, Roman candles, sky rockets, mines and shells, helicopter-type rockets, certain sparklers, revolving wheels and firecrackers with up to 50 mg. of powder.

Fireworks that have been banned from public sale by the CPSC include firecrackers containing more than 50 milligrams of powder, cherry bombs, M-100s and M-80s. Mail-order kits for “building your own” are also banned, although consumer fireworks are readily available through the Internet.

Ten states ban all consumer fireworks. Oklahoma allows only fireworks such as firecrackers, sparklers, cone fountains and sky rockets. They must be clearly marked "Explosives 1.4G," (formerly known as Class C fireworks) and must have directions printed on the product label.

"However," said Collar, "people should not assume that because these are legal they are safe. As with many other issues, the two are not necessarily synonymous.”

Citizens are urged to beware of illegal fireworks that are sold on the black market in Oklahoma. These include anything with a wooden stick, and any fireworks labeled “Explosives 1.3” (formerly known as Class B fireworks).

"Many people forget that fireworks are not toys -- they are explosive devices and should be handled with the greatest of care," said Collar. "Better yet, we recommend that families attend only community-sponsored events and leave the fireworks to the experts."

In addition to the risk of injury, using any fireworks in most Oklahoma cities and towns can result in a hefty fine. The state fine is $100, and municipal fines can go as high as $200, as is the case in Oklahoma City. Code enforcement officers add that additional citations may be issued such as maintaining a fire hazard, which in Oklahoma City carries a fine of $200.

Safety Guidelines

If families insist that fireworks should be a part of their backyard celebration, they should follow these important safety guidelines:

  • Only adults should handle fireworks. Tell children that they should leave the area immediately if their friends are using fireworks.
  • Discuss safety procedures with children. Teach children to "stop, drop and roll" if their clothes catch on fire. Make sure they know how to call 9-1-1. Also, have a cordless phone and a source of water nearby.
  • Read labels and carefully follow directions.
  • Never use fireworks indoors.
  • Be sure spectators are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never aim or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Never place your face or any other body part over fireworks.
  • Never try to re-ignite fireworks that malfunction.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

Following these important guidelines can help keep your fireworks activities enjoyable and safe.


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