Experts say fireworks fun requires caution

By Brian Brus - Oklahoma State University
Vibrant pink fireworks explode across a night sky.

STILLWATER, Okla. – More than a year of COVID-19 precautions and vaccinations has Oklahomans looking to Independence Day as a fireworks-punctuated opportunity to reconnect with friends and neighbors.

However, that enthusiasm could leave the community open to other risks: accidental injuries and fires.

“Fireworks are exciting and fun to watch, but they’re also dangerous. A little forethought will help ensure the holiday isn’t ruined by preventable accidents,” said, Jim Rhodes, Oklahoma State University Extension 4-H youth safety educator.

According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were involved with an estimated 10,000 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2019 – not all fireworks are consumed on the holiday itself. The estimated rate of fireworks-related injuries nationwide is 3.1 per 100,000 people.

John Weir, OSU Extension associate specialist in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, said recent wet weather will help keep grassland fires under control. Hay and forage shielded from rain could be a little drier, but overall high humidity will help keep those materials from sparking also.

“Think about the areas where you’re going to light fireworks, what’s nearby and wind direction. Be aware of materials that may be flammable,” Weir said. “Fireworks should only be used outside in clear areas away from structures and vehicles.”

Weir suggested having a handy source of water nearby, such as a garden hose or bucket. A handheld fire extinguisher should always be available in the home.

Before purchasing celebratory products, check local ordinances to ensure they can be used legally in the area.

Fireworks safety begins ahead of the holiday, Rhodes said. Parents should have conversations with their children about which fireworks products they can operate and precaution expectations. For example, impact-snappers seem safe because they don’t require lighting, but those products should not be thrown at or near other people or animals. Likewise with handheld sparklers: Children need to be reminded to be careful of anyone within arm’s reach and that the leftover sticks are still hot.

“When you visit a fireworks stand, try to direct your kids to the products that are appropriate to their age,” Rhodes said. “Of course, they’ll want the bigger items. That opens the conversation about who lights the fuses and how far away to stand.”

When finished, douse spent fireworks with water and put them in a metal trash can away from structures or combustible materials until the next day, when they can be disposed of safely.