Independence Day celebrations typically include barbecues and some involvement with fireworks, whether it is viewing a show done by professionals or launching them illegally, or, at the least, unsafely.
The latter is one reason the period around the Fourth of July is the worst week for fires in the United States with far more blazes reported on this holiday than any other day.
Fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires in the U.S. resulting in an estimated eight deaths, 40 injuries and more $30 million in property damage in 2011, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
People typically buy certain types of fireworks that do not have a high level of explosiveness, but they are still able to catch fire and cause damage.
“We’ve become complacent with it,” said Chandler Fire Department spokesperson Keith Welch.
Dangers of fireworks
The cost of unsafe consumer firework use could result in personal injuries, potential death, severe burns and fires.
In 2012, U.S. emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for firework-related injuries, per the NFPA.
Gilbert Fire Department spokesperson Michael Connor compares firework safety to water safety.
“The only way to be absolutely safe is to have a water watcher, an adult that’s there watching the pool if you want to have your kids 100 percent protected. That water watcher never takes his or her eyes off the kids in the water,” he said. “It’s the same with fireworks; if you want to go through this Fourth of July and confirm that no one will get hurt by fireworks, you need to go to a public firework show.”
That being said, Connor emphasized legal consumer fireworks are for adult use only.
The NFPA reports risk of firework injury is highest for ages 15 to 24 in the U.S., followed by children under 10. With the state legalizing use in the communities and an increase in sale over recent years, people underestimate the potential hazards.
The Gilbert Fire Department has seen an increase in injuries and calls for fires in recent years. On a yearly basis, it sees people throw away hot firework remains into their trash, leading to trash-can fires. It’s one reason why Welch said people should be aware of where people dispose of their fireworks.
“Always have someone supervising, have a water supply or extinguishing supply in case there is a mishap, and if there is, call 911,” said Tempe Fire Department spokesperson Jim Schmit.
Firework use in the East Valley
According to the Tempe Fire Department, there was one fireworks-caused fire in the city in 2011, three in 2012, and one in 2013. This is the first year fireworks will be legal in Tempe, meaning those fires were caused by illegal use.
The sale of fireworks began June 24 and goes through July 6. Firework use by the general public is illegal in Arizona, but the purchase of some fireworks is legal for anyone 16 and up. Local jurisdictions cannot restrict the sale of fireworks, but they can create laws to restrict use without a permit or licensed professional.
Fireworks permitted for use in Tempe include handheld sparklers, smoke devices, party poppers, snappers and snakes, ground-based sparklers in either cylindrical, square, cone or rocket shapes. The city bans the use of aerial fireworks, firecrackers, sky rockets, and bottle rockets. Fireworks are allowed for use in Chandler from June 24 through July 6 specifically on private property with the owner’s consent. Permits are required for use on public property.
Mesa also permits the sale of permissible fireworks from June 24 through July 6, as well as Dec. 24 through Jan. 3. People can use them between those dates on private property.
Gilbert limits the use of consumer fireworks to certain dates for holiday celebration only: Dec. 31, Jan. 1, and July 3, 4, and 5 from midnight to midnight. Consumer fireworks are limited to use on private property with the owner’s permission. Although they are legal to purchase, any firework is prohibited on public property such as parks. Illegal or federally deregulated fireworks are prohibited at all times. To view more on Gilbert’s rules and regulations, visit www.gilbertaz.gov/departments/fire-and-rescue/consumer-fireworks.
• Brittney Daigneau is a senior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern with the Tribune this semester. Reach her at email@example.com.