For Fourth of July, county officials urge safe fireworks use

Fireworks light up the night sky during the Fourth of July Celebration at the Carroll County Farm Museum July 4, 2012.
Fireworks light up the night sky during the Fourth of July Celebration at the Carroll County Farm Museum July 4, 2012.(DAVE MUNCHSTAFF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Any firework that flies, makes a loud noise or moves across the ground is illegal in Maryland, but that won't stop some from risking fines, fires or severe injuries this Fourth of July.

In 2013, a woman was injured near Finksburg when a firework hit her in the face while she was righting a mortar tube that fell over.


In 2012, a young adult severely injured his hand in Manchester when an illegal firework exploded while he was holding it.

In 2011, a juvenile in Hampstead taped several fireworks together — technically creating an improvised explosive device — and injured his hand when it went off.

All three incidents occurred around July Fourth, according to Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch.

"Why take what's supposed to be a celebratory holiday and turn it into a tragedy?" said Bouch, who is also a member of the Gamber and Community Fire Company.

There might have been any number of unreported fireworks injuries, he said, because people self-treat at home due to embarrassment and the knowledge that they were doing something illegal.

Cpl. Jonathan Light, a spokesman for the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, said deputies received 17 calls about fireworks last year on July Fourth.

"We get calls each year, especially regarding the noise," he said.

Calls tend to come from more-rural parts of the county and some come from farmers whose animals are being startled by the explosions, according to Light.


Fire companies did not report any serious fires stemming from use of illegal fireworks in recent years.

"I think we're fortunate around Westminster. … We haven't had any major incidents or anything like that," said Robert Cumberland, spokesman for the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department.

Leon Flemming, a spokesman for the Hampstead Volunteer Fire Company, also reported a lack of serious incidents.

Cumberland said his department is staffed normally over the holiday without any additional volunteers. Fire companies are prepared to respond to any fires that might result from fireworks, but nonemergency complaints about illegal fireworks go through law enforcement, he said.

Independence Day is one of the biggest days of the year for using illegal fireworks, Bouch said, but there are risks even with sparklers and other permitted fireworks.

Handheld sparklers burn at an intense 1,200 degrees, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. It's safest to wet the area where sparklers will be used and keep a bucket of water or hose nearby, Bouch said.


"You don't want to have children running around with sparklers," he said.

Along with improper supervision of juveniles, using fireworks while consuming alcohol is dangerous, Bouch said.

"The fireworks themselves haven't become more dangerous; it's the people who are using them," he said.

Bouch said the Office of the State Fire Marshal will be conducting patrols throughout the state looking for illegal fireworks displays.

"We can't stop everything, but we can at least try," he said.

Illegal fireworks are confiscated and violators face fines of up to $250 per item, according to Bouch. The confiscated fireworks are destroyed in an incinerator.

Cumberland said the county offers plenty of opportunities to see safe and professional fireworks displays around the area, from the volunteer fire department carnivals to the Fourth of July fireworks at the Carroll County Farm Museum.

"There's plenty of opportunities for people to go see them and go see them done professionally," he said.