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Safety first urged for New Year’s festivities

By Staff | Dec 31, 2015

Those planning to ring in the New Year with a colorful bang should do so safely and carefully.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that in 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 recorded fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires and 16,300 outside and other fires. They resulted in approximately 40 civilian injuries, along with $32 million in direct property damage.

“This time of year, we will see an increase in structure fire calls and burns or other related traumatic injuries from fireworks,” Division Chief Ryan Lamb, of the Cape Coral Fire Department, said.

He noted that a lit firework can land in a neighbor’s yard and cause damage, even injury.

“They could potentially be held liable for that,” Lamb said of the person who lit the firework.

In 2013, U.S. emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for fireworks-related injuries. The NFPA stated that 55 percent of the injuries were to the extremities and 38 percent were to the head.

The risk of fireworks injury is highest for young people ages 0-4, followed by children 10-14.

The city of Cape Coral has a policy against consumers using fireworks.

“If it leaves the ground or explodes, they’re not legal for residential or recreational use,” Lamb said.

For those who choose to light that wick, however, officials offered up some basic safety tips.

“Sparklers burn hotter than glass melts at, so they are very hot,” he said.

If there are children around, adult supervision is a must.

“Keep a close eye on children,” Lamb said.

Allow live and even “dud” fireworks to cool down before handling them.

“There’s no such thing as a dud,” he said, adding that many have led to hand and face injuries.

Try to avoid loose clothing and keep long hair tied back.

“Stop, drop and roll if your clothes do catch on fire,” Lamb said. “Call 911 if you need help.”

Denny Billec, the store manager of the Phantom Fireworks in Fort Myers, explained that without proper safety precautions and following of safety rules, accidents can – and will – happen.

“These are actually explosives, and they have to be handled by adults,” he said.

“Never let children handle, light or play with fireworks,” Billec added.

Fireworks should be used on a hard, flat and level surface that is in a clear open area.

“We want to keep the audience at a safe distance away from the shooting site,” he said, noting that approximately 75 feet would work. “Never light fireworks where there’s dry grass and brush.”

Have an adequate water source readily available, like a bucket of water or garden hose.

Fireworks are typically cardboard wrapped with paper and can ignite.

Billec suggested watering down the shooting site beforehand as a precaution.

“You never want to hold a firework in your hand,” he said.

Place a firework on the ground, light the fuse and get away from it.

Pet owners should keep in mind that the noise and excitement can be terrifying and overwhelming.

“It frightens the animals,” Billec said.

Keep pets indoors away from the explosions and action – even dogs.

“You don’t want them running around,” he said.

According to Billec, the use of fireworks by consumers has increased every year by a percentage. However, the number of firework-related injuries compared to usage has decreased each year.

“Statistically, the injuries have dropped,” he said.

Billec attributed the decrease to higher production and testing standards for fireworks.

“The government has really gotten strict,” he said.

For more information, visit: www.fireworks.com or the NFPA at: www.nfpa.org.

Phantom Fireworks is at 16243 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 4, Fort Myers.