SPRINGFIELD – As part of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s efforts to keep Illinois families cool and safe this summer through his Keep Cool Illinois campaign, Illinois State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman is urging Illinois residents to play it safe this Fourth of July by leaving dangerous fireworks to the professionals. Although state law prohibits their use by consumers, bottle rockets caused nearly 40 injuries reported in Illinois around the July 4th holiday last year, with nearly 20 additional injuries reportedly caused by firecrackers.
“For many people, fireworks are as much a part of the Fourth of July as a turkey is to Thanksgiving,” said State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman. “However, fireworks can be very dangerous in untrained hands, and each year many children and adults are injured, some quite severely. The best way to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth of July is to watch one of the many professional displays that will be held in communities throughout the state. Professional fireworks shooters are trained to handle the inherent dangers in fireworks, and can ensure that you and your family have a safe, happy holiday.”
Gov. Blagojevich’s Keep Cool Illinois campaign, a statewide effort to help Illinoisans stay cool, healthy and safe during the summer months. Keep Cool Illinois seeks to inform Illinois residents on how to prevent heat-related problems, reduce their utility bills and participate in summer activities safely.
Every year following the Fourth of July, OSFM surveys Illinois hospitals for information on fireworks-related injuries. Eighty-six of the state’s 198 hospitals responded to last year’s survey and reported 155 people treated for injuries between June 23 and July 20, 2006. Nearly 60 percent of the injuries reported were first-, second- or third-degree burns. Eight hearing loss injuries, four loss of sight injuries and one dismemberment related to fireworks also were reported, along with several lacerations, abrasions, and other injuries. No fatalities related to fireworks were reported to OSFM for 2006.
Overall, injury reports were down slightly from 2005. Foreman said he was particularly pleased that injuries related to sparklers decreased from 30 reported in 2005 to 19 reported in 2006. While often considered a harmless item that small children can enjoy, sparklers actually burn at temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (982 degrees Celsius) and remain extremely hot long after the sparks have stopped.
“Most sparkler injuries are to young children, who don’t understand the extreme danger of this so-called novelty item,” Foreman said. “I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous sparklers can be if children touch the extremely hot wire or let the sparkler get too close to their clothing and it catches on fire. The best advice I can give to parents is to keep sparklers away from young children and closely supervise older children when they play with sparklers.”
In addition to personal injuries, fireworks can cause structure and vehicle fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in a typical year more fires in the United States are reported on July 4th than any other day of the year and fireworks account for half of those fires. In 2004, NFPA says that fireworks caused an estimated 1,500 total structure fires and 600 vehicle fires reported to fire departments nationwide. Those fires resulted in an estimated 20 injuries and $21 million in direct property damage.
The State Fire Marshal also reminds people that new fireworks regulations that went into effect last year require anyone who plans to set off consumer or professional grade fireworks to meet safety standards that will protect the fireworks shooters and spectators, as well as homes and other property.
Under those regulations, fireworks displays in Illinois are divided into two categories: consumer fireworks, which include such items as fountains, repeaters and parachutes; and pyrotechnic displays, which use professional grade fireworks such as mortars, cake bundles, and ground displays that depict a picture. Pyrotechnic displays and consumer displays are permitted only in villages, counties and municipalities that have passed ordinances allowing such displays. In addition to firecrackers of any size and bottle rockets, other well-known fireworks such as Roman candles are not allowed under the new regulations.
Novelty fireworks, such as snakes, sparklers, and party-poppers, are not regulated by the state, although municipalities have the authority to enact an ordinance prohibiting the sale and use of sparklers on public property.
In order to shoot consumer fireworks in communities where allowed, an adult must attend training at their local fire department and pass a safety and knowledge test, apply for a site inspection by the fire department and apply for a permit issued by their local government. Once a permit has been issued, the consumer may purchase only approved consumer fireworks from a registered consumer fireworks distributor or retailer.
The state’s fireworks law also regulates individuals, businesses or units of local government that put on an outdoor pyrotechnic display using display fireworks.
For more information about the new fireworks regulations, visit the OSFM website at www.state.il.us/osfm. For additional information about the Keep Cool Illinois campaign, visit the website at www.keepcool.illinois.gov.