Revelers welcoming the new year with fireworks may be tempted to hand their children sparklers, believing the sizzle of those captivating flicker sticks to be less dangerous than the pop of an exploding firecracker or the boom of a Roman candle.
But that sizzle accounted for 40 percent of fireworks-related emergency room visits for children younger than 15 last year, and nearly 20 percent among all ages, according to nationwide data compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In fact, there were more than three times as many emergency room visits prompted by sparkler-related injuries than by illegal firecrackers nationwide during the Fourth of July holiday period in 2014, according to the CPSC report.
“While fireworks might be an attraction and a joyful experience for many, they are not without risk, from the most elaborate down to the most basic,” said Brant Thompson, deputy chief of the Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office. “We probably see more injuries with sparklers than with anything else.”
Sparklers burn at temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit — 300 degrees higher than it takes to melt glass, according to the CPSC.
“Oftentimes they’re placed in the hands of young children, and we certainly advise against that,” Thompson said. “They can burn you in a second. And the trend of gathering a dozen or so sparklers and binding them together and igniting them can cause a very violent explosion.”
Thompson said experimenting with or modifying fireworks also leads to significant injuries each year.
“If you choose to engage in popping fireworks, do so in a manner in adherence with the manufacturer’s recommendations,” he said. “Never, never should one engage in crafting a homemade firework. That can come with devastating consequences. Not only could it land you in the hospital, it could land you in jail as well. Unfortunately we see that all too often, and generally it comes to our attention after a catastrophic injury.”
The Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office recommends revelers participate instead in community events where fireworks displays are handled by professionals, Thompson said.
“Certainly there is a public display, if not multiple public displays, within a reasonable distance of anywhere in the state,” Thompson said. “All the major municipalities and many smaller communities sponsor them along with their other seasonal events.”
In East Baton Rouge Parish, where personal fireworks use is prohibited, residents can watch the professional fireworks show over the Mississippi River following the red stick drop at downtown’s Town Square.
Personal fireworks use is also prohibited in several municipalities across the metro area, including Denham Springs, Walker, Gonzales, Donaldsonville and Port Allen, while unincorporated areas of Livingston, Ascension and West Baton Rouge parishes permit it.
Thompson said residents who choose to pop their own fireworks should adhere to key safety principles: buy fireworks from a licensed vendor; follow the manufacturer’s recommendations; keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby; place fireworks on a flat surface far away from any structures, vehicles, other combustibles or people; move away quickly from ignited fireworks; never relight a “dud” firework; never experiment with homemade fireworks; never give fireworks to children; and save the alcohol for after the show.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.