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Firefighters, medical community urge safety around fireworks

Popping fireworks may be illegal within city limits but that doesn’t stop the adventurous from taking part in launching bottle rockets and firecrackers.
Firefighters and members of the medical community urging the public to use caution around fireworks.
Georgiana Flournoy, director of emergency services at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, said burns to the extremities and face — even the eyes and ears, are the most typical fireworks injuries they see in the emergency room.
“And when you throw in alcohol consumption, which can be a lot during the holidays, that compounds it. People put safety last,” Flournoy said. “Unsupervised children under the age of 14 are another majority we see especially if they are unsupervised or with the inappropriate use of fireworks.”
Giving a child a firework to hold is a no-no.
“We have had them where they don’t think the firework is lit and turn it towards their face or point it at one another,” she said.
Burns to the eyes can cause loss of vision which could be permanent and gunpowder can “tattoo” the face.
Brandon Hebert, director of operations with Acadian Ambulance Service of Texas, said fireworks accidents are not frequent but nearly all of the incidents occur during the holidays when fireworks are sold.
“We respond to multiple fireworks-related accidents every year and, unfortunately, children and teens are often involved,” Hebert said. “The injuries can be severe and usually involve painful burns, which, depending on severity and the location of the injury, could be disfiguring for life.”
That’s why it’s so important for people to take precautions when using fireworks, Hebert said. That includes making sure the person lighting the fireworks wears eye protection; never pointing or throwing fireworks at people, animals, structures or flammable materials; and dousing used fireworks with water before disposing of them.
Port Arthur Fire Capt. Perry Manuel, who is also president of the International Association of Fire Fighters No. 397, said the best way to enjoy fireworks and prevent injury is to watch a professional show.
“Consumer fireworks are dangerous and the risks to personal safety and the safety of the community are significant,” Manuel said.
Fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,400 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2013, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks, cookouts and community events can quickly turn to disaster if proper precautions are not taken.
Children are especially at risk on July 4. In 2013, 40 percent of victims with fireworks injuries were under 15. Children should never play with fireworks. Even sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Fireworks are not legal in Port Arthur,” Manuel said. “Legal or not, if you decide to ignore these words of caution and set off your own fireworks display, precautions need to be taken, and taken seriously. While pretty, fireworks can be very, very dangerous.”
Flournoy offered a few words of advise.
“If you are going to drink alcohol, leave the fireworks to someone else,” Flournoy said. “It’s better to be an observer then a participant. Also, watch young children around fireworks. Even giving a sparkler to a child that sparkler can catch clothing on fire. Children need to be closely supervised. Also, follow manufacturers guidelines appropriately. If it says not to hold in your hands, don’t hold in your hands.”
Manuel advised the public to call 9-1-1 only for potentially life-threatening situations so fire fighters are available to respond quickly when lives are in danger.
For more information about fireworks safety, visit http://www.nfpa.org/fireworks
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