More fireworks in Americans’ hands for July 4 raises risks

More fireworks in Americans’ hands for July 4 raises risks

ATLANTA — For many Americans, the Fourth of July will be more intimate this year. It also could be riskier.

Saturday will be unlike any Independence Day in recent memory. From Atlanta to San Diego, hundreds of fireworks shows have been cancelled as officials restrict large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as infections surge across the U.S.

With fewer professional celebrations, many Americans are bound to shoot off fireworks in backyards and at block parties. And they already are: Sales have been booming. Some public safety officials say consumer fireworks in more hands means greater danger of injuries and wildfires in parts of the country experiencing dry, scorching weather.

“The general public is buying more than ever before,” said Steve Houser, president of the National Fireworks Association.

While it’s not clear exactly what is driving people to shops, some sellers think fireworks are a diversion for people who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.

“We’re seeing new customers … who usually don’t come to the fireworks tents,” said Robert Fletcher of Desert Sky Fireworks, which has locations across Arizona.

Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have received more complaints of illegal fireworks this summer than in previous years. While most states allow at least some types of consumer fireworks, many cities prohibit them, even non-explosive sparklers. But they acknowledge it is difficult to stop people from buying them just outside city limits where they’re legal.

In Arizona, which has battled wildfires for weeks, thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for Gov. Doug Ducey to ban fireworks this summer.

Delanie Thompson, 28, said she started the petition after seeing a neighbour’s house engulfed in flames last week during a wildfire in Phoenix. She said she and her boyfriend were forced to evacuate their home for 30 hours.

Thompson said she got angry when she later saw a roadside tent selling fireworks in a nearby town.

The Fourth of July is “about our independence,” she said. “Not just about fireworks.”

Authorities in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale seized nearly 4,000 pounds of banned fireworks this week after getting a tip about an illegal sales operation at a house.

Fireworks can be a big danger as many parts of the American West struggle with drought, turning vegetation into tinder for flames.

“It definitely compounds the risk for starting wildfires,” Jessica Gardetto, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said of fireworks.

The centre is predicting more wildfires than usual in July across a swath of the U.S. West. And fires started by retail fireworks tend to burn near homes, said Gardetto, who has heard them explode every day for the last week in her neighbourhood.

Fires are just one cause for concern. Some doctors fear injuries will increase this year as more people experiment with fireworks at home.

Dr. Erin Miller, a hand surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said she amputated 42 fingers due to fireworks injuries last year while she was on call during the Fourth of July.

She has simple advice for revelers: Do not use larger fireworks like mortars and cherry bombs.

“Do not mix alcohol or any other substances if you’re choosing to use fireworks,” she added.

But not everyone is as alarmed by the increased interest in consumer fireworks.

“It’s business as usual for us,” said Chris James, a spokesman for the Glendale Fire Department.

The agency will have extra units on standby like usual for the holiday, he said. He recommends having water and a fire extinguisher nearby.

“It’s basic common sense we try to preach,” James said.

Fire departments and many sellers also urge people to have a sober “designated shooter,” said Houser of the National Fireworks Association.

Some in the industry believe monthslong lockdowns during the pandemic explain the increased interest in blowing off steam with fireworks.

“We’ve all been cooped up at home. We all have a lot of added stresses,” said James Fuller, a spokesman for TNT Fireworks. “I think a lot of folks want to feel good again.”

Suman Naishadham, The Associated Press

Fireworks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Clearview Public Schools has honoured Cindy Zimmermann as the recipient of the 2020 Clearview Star Award

Zimmerman has also gone with Teachers Across Borders to share her talents for a semester in Vietnam

Library column: October is only a few days away!

Culture Days will be back next September, so keep watch for future announcements

Stettler Food Bank in solid shape thanks to community support

A hike in demand is expected in the coming months

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Six injured, man in custody following BB gun incident in Alberta, RCMP say

Airdrie’s downtown core was told to shelter-in-place, while others nearby were asked to stay inside

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Wetaskiwin RCMP make arrests for Hit and Run to residence

Damage estimates are expected to be in excess of $20,000.

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

“My world exploded,” says Bentley-area farmer who’s swather was struck by a motorist

Dennis Duncan was a mile from home when his swather was struck by another travelling at high speeds

Local feral cat rescue looking for support

Bottle drive being held in Bashaw

UPDATE: Last kidnapping suspect arrested

Amber Knickle has been arrested and remains in police custody

Most Read