I heard a whizzing noise right past my ear, and then — pop! I turned and saw the look of "Oops!" and sheer terror wrapped into one on his face. Shooting your soon-to-be mother-in-law with a bottle rocket is probably not the best way to stay on her good side. Still, it taught me that even on the farm, despite all of the open acres, there is a need to practice safety during Fourth of July celebrations.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an annual average of three deaths and 40 civilian injuries — and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.
The association reports that in 2015, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,900 people for fireworks-related injuries; 51% of those injuries were to the extremities, and 41% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 26% of the estimated injuries.
One of the most common Fourth of July fireworks is sparklers. However, the association warns that these novelty fireworks can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees F, and are responsible for more than one-third of all emergency room fireworks-related injuries.
Missouri's Division of Fire Safety offers the following tips for making sure your Fourth of July celebration is safe and fun:
• Always keep your children away from fireworks. If teens are permitted to handle fireworks, they should be closely supervised by an adult.
• Only light fireworks one at a time. Never try to re-light fireworks that have malfunctioned.
• Make sure to have a garden hose or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.
• Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and leaving them in a trash can.
• Purchase fireworks only from a properly licensed retailer.
• Make sure fireworks are legal in your locality before buying them.
• Only use fireworks in a large open space that has been cleared of flammable materials. Never shoot them off in a glass container.
• Never use fireworks while consuming alcohol.
Despite the bottle rocket blunder, the young man did make it into the family. However, we might keep away from fireworks this July 4.