Fire safety experts warn of fireworks hazards during 4th of July holiday

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (WLS) -- Medical and fire professionals gathered in the northwest suburbs Thursday to discuss firework safety ahead of the July 4th holiday.

The meeting was an up-close and personal view of just how dangerous it can be when pyrotechnics are mishandled - and how quickly injuries can happen.

A mishandled firework can explode, ripping off digits and severely injuring your hands, face and body.

"The eye injuries are especially devastating because you can lose your vision. Any burn to any part of your body, in many cases is lifelong," said Doctor Reinhold Llerena AMITA Health Medical Group.

Those gathered in Hoffman Estates had a sobering warning to residents and their children for the holiday weekend.

"The highest rate in the ER for treating injuries if that of our teenagers 10-14 years old," said Bartlett Fire Protection District Fire Chief Mike Falese.

New data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows in 2017, there were nearly 13,000 emergency room injuries and eight non-occupational deaths from fireworks nationwide. The majority of those injuries resulted from simple sparklers.

"That momentary touch of a sparkler touches a piece of clothing, and before you know it, that clothing has caught on fire," said Mike Figolah, former president of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance. "That child is going to spend several days, if not weeks, and a lot of money recuperating in a burn unit."

And while exploding fireworks can be devastating to your body, they can also trigger mental devastation for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. Some veterans call it the most difficult day of the year.

"I've met veterans who have purposely on the fourth of July have driven themselves to the middle of Illinois, parked themselves on a farm road and slept in their car just so they would be away from the chance of anyone blowing off fireworks," said PTSD expert Dr. Patrick McGrath.

Fireworks are Illegal in Illinois, so "leave fireworks to the professionals," Figolah said.

Also prepare pets for the holiday by ensuring they have identification and keeping them inside.
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