Twelve years old and well versed in the art of converting a Fourth of July fireworks fountain into a tiny explosive, a friend hands me my first bottle rocket and lights the fuse.
I expect the firework at the end of the stick to fly off. Instead, a shower of burning gunpowder scorches my arm. I still have the marks.
I was lucky.
A nine-year-old girl in Compton last July 4th weekend lost her entire left hand and several fingers on her right when an illegal firework exploded in a park. Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, a man lost most of his fingers. Across the nation, four people were killed by fireworks.
In a report released this week, the Consumer Products Safety Commission documented 11,100 fireworks injuries last year.
While some were illegal, the troubling tragedy is that many injuries were caused by so-called “safe and sane” fireworks.
Some 900 of those documented injuries were caused by sparklers. Yes, sparklers.
But more shocking is that 400 of those injured were 4 years old or younger. Who gives a toddler something that burns? But other questions linger as well. What kind of person sells gunpowder gussied up to look like a toy?
“Each year, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks,” said Lorraine Carli, a vice president with the National Fire Protection Association. “Even sparklers, which are often thought of as harmless enough for children to hold, burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause significant injuries.”
The safety commission report adds that another 100 injuries were caused by fountains. Each one involved eyes.
The National Safety Council, too, gives a special warning about sparklers. “Every year, young children can be found along parade routes and at festivals with sparklers in hand, but they are a lot more dangerous than most people think.
“Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet.”
For all ages, burns are the most common injuries. Next, are hands and fingers followed by legs. Nine percent of injuries are to eyes.
“Knowing the harm fireworks inflict each year, particularly among young people,” Carli said this week, “we urge everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals who are trained to safely put on spectacular displays.”
With California facing a long, hot summer and moisture levels in plants already far below what they were this time a year ago, it’s also worth noting fireworks are blamed for an…