Care urged during July 4 holiday celebrations

June 28, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - An emergency room doctor who said a fireworks device almost blew out the hearing in one of his ears when he was young advises parents to keep a close eye on children this holiday.

Dr. Robert VandenBosche of Washington County Hospital said injuries related to sparklers - which are among the only fireworks devices legal for sale in Maryland - and rockets are the No. 2 leading cause of emergency room visits related to fireworks. Firecrackers cause more injuries than any other device, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Typically, they're going to be minor injuries, but some of these explosive devices that they're selling in some of these states could blow a hole through you, practically," VandenBosche said.

While Maryland and West Virginia limit the sale of fireworks devices to sparklers and other small novelties like snappers, Pennsylvania allows residents of other states to buy explosives, officials said.


Last year, authorities in Hagerstown seized more than 10,000 pieces of illegal fireworks, said city Assistant Fire Marshal Rich Miller, who blames the area's proximity to more lenient states on the influx of illegal explosives.

Miller said one of the major seizures last year involved so many fireworks that officials conducted their own fireworks display at a Hagerstown Suns game. As a licensed pyrotechnician conducted the show, one of the explosives malfunctioned.

"If it wasn't for the fact that we confiscated it, it would have been used in someone's backyard, and someone would have potentially been hurt or killed," Miller said.

Carol Nolte, deputy state fire marshal for West Virginia, said a malfunctioning explosive killed a licensed pyrotechnician - a firefighter - several years ago. While she did not recall other specific incidents of injuries, Nolte said even legal consumer devices can cause injuries, especially to fingers and eyes.

"First of all, what I would say ... is there is no such thing as a safe and sane firework, even with the legally allowed fireworks," Nolte said.

Hagerstown Assistant Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven said a boy was hurt in 2005 by a sparkler that set his clothes on fire. That same year, a bottle rocket hit an adult in the face, and illegal fireworks set several fires.

People who set off illegal devices or intend to set off illegal devices can be fined $250 per device, DeHaven said.

Underneath a tent on Dual Highway where teachers Terry and Mike Shade of Warfordsburg, Pa., have sold sparkler-type devices for the past three summers, an older couple browsed assorted sets of fireworks priced at about $50.

Terry Shade said she usually tells children who shop with their parents to leave the pyrotechnics to the adults. Even the small devices can cause injuries, she said.

"We'll say, 'Stand back and watch,' because kids are really excited by fireworks. You can see that when they come in," Shade said.

Fireworks tips

· Always supervise children.

· Use only legal fireworks.

· Use only outside in areas that are clear on all sides and above.

· Keep a bucket of water nearby. Dunk used and misfired fireworks into water before discarding.

· Never stand over a fireworks device.

· Keep pets inside during fireworks displays.

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