July 4 fireworks cause injuries, fires in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- From north to south, fireworks displays were evidence everywhere in the Chicago area, and so were the victims of accidents from seemingly innocuous devices.

"You were looking at devices that are, in essence, war type devices, hence why they're illegal here in Illinois, why we're so concerned about them" said Dr. Stathis Poulakidas, director of burn services for Cook County Health.

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A 24-year-old man in Waukegan was gravely injured Saturday night when a mortar he was checking for a fault fuse blew up in his face. He had to be airlifted to the regional burn center.

"He has lost an eye. Hopefully he'll be OK," said Carman Benson, his grandmother. "I am telling everyone that has kids, grown kids too, please do not play with these fireworks; they are dangerous."

A teenager at 129th and Eggleston lost his hand and suffered concussive injuries from a mortar gone wrong on Saturday night as well.

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Dr. Poulakidas said such situations are often complicated by alcohol and drug misuse.

"Two types of injury. First burn injury as you can expect from anything it's going to explode, then they also get a blast effect-type injury which causes trauma deeper trauma to the lungs and the face, the chest, the brain, all sorts of things that can cause greater harm to a patient more so than just burns on their skin," he said.

Over the weekend the Chicago Fire Department also responded to 30 building fire, 27 garage fires, and 293 trash fires. Spokespeople from the department said those "can reasonably be considered to be the result of fireworks activity."

Poulakidas said he has at least 25 patients at Cook County Health suffering from fireworks-related injuries needing surgery, and he doesn't want to see more. The fourth may be over, but he said for the next holiday leave the fireworks to the professionals.
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