Churchville man suffers serious burns while setting off fireworks

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A Churchville man suffered serious burns Wednesday night while setting off fireworks at a relative’s house that exploded in what a state fire investigator characterized as “a disaster waiting to happen.”

The accident should raise awareness as summer approaches about the dangers of setting off illegal fireworks, a deputy state fire marshal said.

Zachary Cochran, 21, of the 100 block of Hopewell Road, suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face and upper body, according to a notice of investigation from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Cochran was first treated by medics from Level Volunteer Fire Company and Harford County EMS Foundation, then flown by Medevac helicopter to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, according to the notice.

He was treated and released from Bayview, Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said Thursday.

Cochran was by himself in his yard when he allegedly illegally discharged an unknown type of aerial firework just before 9 p.m. The firework mortar discharged and exploded, according to investigators.

Cochran was using a hollowed out log as the base or platform from which to launch the firework, according to the notice of investigation.

“It was a poor choice on his behalf,” Alkire said.

Cochran tried to tie a homemade fuse into the fuse on the firework in an attempt to light it, Alkire said. Cochran didn’t have enough time to move away from the firework before it exploded and was “very intimate” with it when it exploded, investigators said.

Cochran then ran into the house where he lives with his grandfather and told him what happened and called 911, Alkire said. No one witnessed the incident.Little evidence was left once the firework exploded, Alkire said.

Using a hollowed-out log is not a proper way to launch a firework, even though [Cochran] “shouldn’t be shooting them off, regardless,” Alkire said.

“It was just a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.

This is another example of the dangers of fireworks, and as summer approaches, Alkire cautioned about the risks involved in setting off illegal fireworks.

“It’s the beginning of the season. This won’t be the last [of the injuries],” he said. “All we can do is ... urge residents to go to a professional show where the fireworks are licensed and inspected, and they have permission by us to shoot fireworks.”

“The Office of the State Fire Marshal realizes the beginning of summer is approaching with the Memorial Day weekend, and with it comes ... an increase in the use of illegal fireworks across the state as well as injuries to follow,” Alkire wrote in the notice of investigation. “Citizens are reminded fireworks are illegal in the state of Maryland and are urged to attend public, inspected and permitted fireworks displays.”

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