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Editorial: Things that go BANG and look exciting

Image of sparklers by Tim Zankert, via Unsplash

“Maim”isn’t a word we often hear these days, but it’s what fireworks too often do – cause blindness, blow people’s hands off, or maybe just a finger or two … add “maim” to your vocabulary, kids, especially if you like playing with fireworks.  They can maim you.

On June 15, a little before midnight, some “kids on bikes” were reported to the RCMP for shooting fireworks at each other in the 1600 block of Columbia Avenue in Rossland.  The RCMP attended, but by the time they arrived, the kids were gone from the scene.  We hope they didn’t injure themselves or each other, but aiming fireworks at someone can result in tragic injuries.  The RCMP press release warned that “such actions could result in serious harm … and criminal charges could result if harm occurs.”

 I suspect it’s no use appealing to kids to avoid playing with fireworks, or using them as weapons.  Some kids are bright and mature enough to understand danger, but others think they’re impervious to injury and – of course – immortal, too.  So I’ll appeal to parents and other guardians to do their best to keep fireworks out of the hands of kids.  Even older kids.

The small stuff causes the most injuries

People usually think of sparklers as being harmless, but a four-year old child was killed by shrapnel when her father ignited a metal tube filled with sparklers, perhaps accidentally, and it exploded.  Even singly, sparklers can injure, as they burn at high temperatures.

Other smaller fireworks such as firecrackers and bottle rockets are dangerous too – in fact, one estimate holds them responsible for nearly three-quarters of all injuries from fireworks.

Do you value the use of your fingers?  How about your eyesight?  Would you rather keep your face free from horrific burn scars?  It’s the hands, eyesight, and face that are most often injured, sometimes seriously, by fireworks.

An ophthalmologist in Ottawa was quoted in an Ottawa Citizen article, saying that he often sees people with injuries from improper fireworks handling.  “Ocular injuries from fireworks and sparklers are a preventable and unfortunate cause of vision loss,” he commented.

Defective fireworks all too common

Improper handling isn’t always the cause of injuries, though, so don’t think that just because you’re super-careful everything will be fine.  Malfunctioning fireworks are a real hazard.

A 2009 AOL article entitled “Defective fireworks more Common than you know”  begins with the line “Welcome to the finger detachment holiday, when emergency rooms are full of people (mostly young people) with fireworks injuries.” The article goes on to explain that when the US Consumer Product Safety Commission examined 211 shipments of fireworks imported from China, it found that 49% of the material inspected was defective.

Fire Season is coming, too

That was a lovely torrential downpour we had the other day, but have you noticed how quickly everything –including the forest – dries up again?  Have you read about the out-of-control wildfires already burning in Alberta?  So far, we’ve been lucky in BC this year, but it’s only mid-June. 

Causing a wildfire could be the worst thing you’ve ever done.  Firecrackers and other fireworks cause a lot of wildfires … an abstract of an article in a US pediatrics publication informs us that “States that allow a wide variety of fireworks to be sold for personal use have a rate of fireworks-related fires 50 times greater than states that strictly limit the availability of fireworks.”   It also notes that the rate of injuries is seven times higher in those states, too.

Rossland’s Bylaw on Fireworks

Rossland’s Fireworks bylaw prohibits setting off firecrackers in Rossland.  It also prohibits minors from possessing “any type of fireworks.”  It further prohibits any “consumer fireworks” from being set off after 10:00 pm.

Now you know.  Please try to refrain from getting all excited with fireworks, even for the Canada Day holiday.  We don’t want to celebrate it with any injuries, or wildfires either.  Can’t we enjoy a holiday without exploding things?  After all, there will be cake.  Cake isn’t nearly as polluting, either. And I've never heard of cake causing the kind of hideous injury depicted below -- it was caused by some form of fireworks.  

We just know that hand isn't going to work really well ever again.

Please don't look if you're squeamish.

WARNING:  Gruesome image below of a hand damaged by fireworks.