Fire Marshal warns of firework hazard to children, bystanders

A 17-year-old was treated at Carroll Hospital on Saturday, June 30, for burn injuries. The incident is under investigation by the Office of the State Fire Marshal and is believed to be related to using fireworks.

According to a tweet from Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci, the incident was related to fireworks use. Geraci stated, “Please go to a professional firework show and avoid this type of unnecessary tragedy within your family.”

The fire marshal’s office conducts a firework safety conference annually just prior to Independence Day when the greatest number of firework injuries happen. This year, there was a focus on the dangers for children who end up in the crossfires of fireworks.

In 20 to 30 percent of cases, a bystander is the one who’s injured, not just the person lighting the match.

“It might even be a really little kid who’s just off to the side and that bottle rocket falls over and goes into the crowd,” said Dr. F. Dylan Stewart of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center as he addressed the conference, held in Marriottsville on June 26. “I see a lot of 2- and 3-year-olds and you know they’re not lighting any matches, but they’re getting hurt with fireworks.”

And it’s not just illegally purchased fireworks or home-made fireworks that are hurting kids and adults alike.

“Ninety percent of injuries come from legal fireworks,” Stewart said.

The consequences can be life-altering.

“Even though they’re not the biggest number of injuries we see, they can be the most severe injuries, and they tend to be hand and eye injuries,” he said.

A common misconception is that parental supervision is enough to prevent injuries, but Stewart said that in at least half of cases where kids get hurt, an adult is present.

“Even if you’re watching your kid do it, if it’s purchased legally, there’s just no such thing as a completely safe firework. So the best thing is just to leave it to the professionals,” Stewart said.

Those who do choose to set off fireworks should have a water source available while setting them off and follow all labels, warnings and instructions. They also should not allow children to use fireworks, should not drink alcohol while using fireworks or attempt to relight a fuse on a firework.

Laws related to legal firework use vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction throughout Maryland and are completely illegal in some places, such as Montgomery County and Baltimore City.

There have been no changes to Maryland law since last year, according to Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Kristen Nieberlein.

In a news release from the fire marshal’s office, Geraci stated: “Fireworks have been a long tradition of the Fourth of July holiday celebrations. Please make safety your number one priority so everyone can enjoy the holiday season. By acting responsibly, we can help eliminate fireworks injuries in Maryland.”

A list of public firework displays and a list of approved ground-based sprinkler devices is available at mdsp.maryland.gov/firemarshal/Pages/ExplosivesandFireworks.aspx.

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