Legal but dangerous

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Thousands injured annually from using consumer fireworks

By Carol A. Clark

Each July Fourth, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA. Despite the associated risks –skin burns, fires and death – many members of the public continue to light fireworks themselves.

The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks (ASCF), a group of health and safety organizations coordinated by NFPA, urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

“Legal or not, fireworks are too risky for amateurs.

Permanent scarring, loss of vision, dismemberment – these are too often the harsh realities of amateur fireworks use,” states the ASCF on its Web site.

Amateur fireworks use endangers not only the users, but also bystanders and surrounding property and structures. Pyrotechnic devices ranging from sparklers to aerial rockets cause thousands of fires and serious injuries each year, according to NFPA.

Sparklers, which are considered by many to be harmless, reach temperatures of more than 1,000° F.

“Safe and sane fireworks don’t exist,” said Division Manager John Hall of NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research. “When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond.”

In recent years, fireworks have been one of the leading causes of injuries serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment. Fireworks can result in severe burns, fractures, or scars or even death or disfigurement that can last a lifetime. The thousands of serious injuries each year typically harm the eyes, head, or hands, and are mostly reported in states where fireworks are legal.

“Fireworks are legal in New Mexico, however, aerial devices are not appropriate for Los Alamos,” Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker said. “We want to remind people that all fireworks require adult supervision, but I highly recommend leaving the fireworks to the professionals. To ensure everyone’s safety, we’d like to see families go down to Overlook and enjoy a picnic and watch the fireworks display there.”

Wooded areas, homes, and even automobiles have become engulfed in flames because of fireworks. Fireworks-related fires have typically caused at least $20 million in property loss each year in recent years, according to the NFPA. A substantial portion of the structure fire property loss due to fireworks typically involves bottle rockets or other fireworks rockets. These rockets can land on rooftops or wedge within certain structures and still retain enough heat to cause a fire.

“For most people, their family and their home represent the hard work of a lifetime and their hopes for the future,” Hall said. “No one would risk losing what’s most important to them if they understood the dangers of fireworks.”

The LAFD will be on patrol throughout the Fourth of July trying to ensure the safety of local citizens, Tucker said.

The annual Fourth of July Kiwanis fireworks event for Los Alamos takes place at Overlook Park in White Rock Sunday. The celebration kicks off at 2 p.m. and the fireworks display begins at 9 p.m. at the park. Atomic City Transit will be available from 4-8:20 p.m. to transport people from the hill to Overlook Park. The buses will run again following the fireworks extravaganza to transport people back up the hill.