Although purportedly invented by the Chinese, fireworks have become synonymous with celebrating the birthday of America each July 4, and in fact, were part of the very first Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777.
America was still embroiled in the Revolutionary War, so the display was intended to bring Americans together to celebrate and raise spirits, James R. Heintze, author of "The Fourth of July Encyclopedia,” previously told USAToday. News of the celebration spread, and soon, Fourth of July celebrations with fireworks began in other cities.
These days, the American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that more than 14,000 fireworks displays light up the nation’s sky each Independence Day.
But while there are so many opportunities to enjoy fireworks displays and other Independence Day celebrations this time of year, especially here in Harford County, many people choose to celebrate with fireworks of their own — both of the legal and illegal variety.
On Wednesday, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, along with the Maryland State Firemen's Association and leaders from various medical fields held its annual demonstration for the media showing the dangers of using pyrotechnics, from the seemingly innocuous sparklers that seem to be sold everywhere to M-80s, which are able to be purchased legally in nearby states but are illegal to set off in Maryland.
Illegal fireworks in Maryland include devices that fly into the air, pieces that create a loud explosion or Chinese-style lanterns with no control of direction or path. In Harford and Howard counties, and Ocean City, ground-based sparklers are illegal too.
Last year, there were 17 fireworks-related incidents in Maryland, State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci said. Across the country, about 280 people go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries during the month around July 4, according to the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission.
“The safest way to enjoy fireworks this July 4th holiday season is to attend one of the many public fireworks displays throughout the state,” Geraci said. We couldn’t agree with him more.
Illegal fireworks aren’t worth the danger. They may be fun to set off and look at, but a malfunction can lead to intense burns or worse — serious damage to hands or eyes. And not just to the person handling the fireworks. In about 20 to 30 percent of cases where an injury occurs, it’s to a bystander.
But even legal fireworks like handheld sparklers, can be dangerous. Sparklers burn at temperatures hot enough to melt some metals, so just imagine what they can do to human flesh if you aren’t careful.
If you do decide to use home fireworks, there are some safety tips you should follow. Keep a bucket of water on-hand to douse sparklers after use. Never attempt to re-light a firework that doesn’t ignite the first time.
And it’s best not to allow children to use fireworks of any sort, even if supervised. In many cases of child injuries, an adult was present. Children ages 5 to 9 have the highest rate of injury from fireworks.
Take the cue from our forefathers and enjoy a public fireworks display with your fellow Americans instead, like the ones in Darlington this Saturday, Bel Air on July 4, and Havre de Grace next Saturday, July 6.
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.