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Independence Day firework safety made easy

FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. -- Fireworks and celebrating the 230th anniversary of our nation go hand in hand as described in the national anthem "rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air" and is something all Americans are proud of and proud to celebrate. Unfortunately, fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a painful memory when children and adults are injured while using fireworks.

Although fireworks are legal in Washington for purchase and use, fireworks are not authorized within the confines of Fairchild or any of its satellite areas. Within Spokane County use or possession of fireworks is illegal; for use in the local surrounding areas call Crime Check at 456-2233.

The majority of fireworks-related injuries occur with children five to 14 years of age. Children in this age group are very adventuresome and experimental, and they are likely to take risks in many of their activities. This age group necessitates close adult supervision of all fireworks activities as well as firework safety education.

Fireworks injury rates have declined by more than 80 percent during the past 30 years.
According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 9,600 people treated for fireworks-related injuries in 2004. Of these injuries 6,600 occurred in a 31-day period (June 19 - July 19, 2004). This decline is a result of stricter safety regulations and a heightened emphasis of firework safety awareness; fireworks are not toys. Of all fireworks related injuries in 2005, 58 percent are attributed to firecrackers, skyrockets and sparklers.

Consumer purchased fireworks are categorized as 1.4G Class-C Explosives, the same as smoke grenades used during base exercises. One of the most common misconceptions adults have is the use of sparklers. For 364 days a year people educate their children on the dangers of playing with matches. They learn at school from Sparky the fire safety dog how to be cautious with loose clothing near stoves. Yet on this one-day a year some adults freely and encouragingly give a child a pyrotechnic torch capable of producing heat at 1,200 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the 325 degrees created by a burning match.

There are documented cases where clothes have caught on fire from sparks produced by these devices causing second and third degree burns. On a national scale of firework-related injuries to this age group, sparklers are listed as the third leading cause of injuries with firecrackers first and skyrockets second.

Since both firecrackers and skyrockets are illegal in Washington, this makes sparklers the number one most likely firework injury related potential. Other legal fireworks burn at 700 degrees, this is more than twice the temperature of a common match and can cause burn injuries and ignite clothing if used improperly.

Of all the injury causing categories, fireworks is the only category for which prohibition, instead of education and adult supervision is often urged. Never give fireworks to young children. Close, adult supervision of all fireworks activities is a must.

Practice-PASS
Be:
-Prepared
-Alert
-Smart
-Safe

Air Force policy is to leave firework demonstrations to the professionals. If you choose to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks, select and use only legal devices. To help you celebrate safely this Fourth of July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Council on Fireworks Safety offer these safety tips:

• Always read and follow label directions.
• Have an adult present.
• Buy from reliable sellers.
• Use outdoors only.
• Always have water handy (Preferably a bucket).
• Never experiment or make your own fireworks.
• Light only one firework at a time.
• Never re-light a "dud" firework.
• Never give fireworks to small children.
• If necessary, store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
• Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then disposing of them in a trashcan.
• Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
• Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
• Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
• The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework. (Have a sturdy pair of leather gloves available as well).
• Stay away from illegal explosives.

For more information, contact the 92nd Wing Safety Office weapons safety section at 247-4738.
(Information provided by Consumer Product Safety Commission, http://www.cpsc.gov and The National Council on Fireworks Safety, http://www.fireworksafety.com)