Authorities issue warning about fireworks safety

July 2, 2008 4:43:54 PM PDT
Warnings are being issued about the dangers of illegal fireworks.It's a warning that's delivered every year around the Fourth of July holiday. Unfortunately, each year there are some people who ignore it, often with tragic results.

Fireworks have always been at the very center of holiday fun. But the celebration can quickly turn to tragedy. Every year, hundreds of people are injured and even killed by fireworks.

"Every year, hundreds of people are injured and some killed by fireworks. One-fifth of injuries are to the eyes and one-fourth of eye injuries result in blindness," said Jose Santiago, Chicago Fire Department.

Sparklers burn at a temperature of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and can ignite clothing, causing severe burns. It took 20 seconds for one child's t-shirt to go up in flames with a sparkler. The Fire Safety Alliance states that 54 percent of fireworks injuries are burns, and the majority of the injuries occur in kids.

"Most of the injuries are to the eyes, the face and the hands. Other injuries include injuries to the arms and legs," said Dr. Elizabeth Powell, Children's Memorial Hospital.

The fire department says 21 percent of all injuries are the direct result of sparklers. Last year, the city council passed an ordinance banning sparklers and they now are illegal in the city of Chicago.

"The fine for having sparklers is $200 to $500. It is a misdemeanor. Don't use it. That's the big thing. We just don't want people to be injured," said Ald. James Balcer, 11th Ward.

Michelle Meloney talked about how daughter Madison De La Cruz's life was changed when their Fourth of July party last year turned into a tragedy as a result of a sparkler.

"I saw my brother-in-law carrying Madison and there was skin hanging off of her foot. I had fainted because I had never seen something so horrible," said Meloney.

Fire officials say that on Independence Day, more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for half of those fires.

Cook County Sheriff Police Bomb Unit officers displayed some of the illegal fireworks confiscated during the last several weeks and detonated several as part of a safety message.

"Just last year we had 10 people killed by illegal fireworks," said Cook Co. Sheriff Tom Dart.


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