Let the fourth explode safely

Over 1,000 fires and almost 250 injuries in Washington were blamed on fireworks during the Independence Day holiday in 2003, so the state fire marshal’s office is hoping to reduce those numbers this year.

According to Karen Jones, deputy state fire marshal, injuries to Washington and Island County residents came as a result of people lighting and holding fireworks in their hands.

“The biggest mistake is they did not set the fireworks on the ground,” she said.

Jones urged those discharging the fireworks to light them and move away quickly without throwing them or altering or tampering with the packaging.

“Once you alter a firework it becomes an illegal explosive device,” she said.

Island County residents are not exempt when it comes to injuries and fires caused by fireworks. According to the state fire marshal’s office, 13 injuries caused by fireworks were reported by Island County hospitals near and during the holiday. Eight fireworks spawned fires were reported by county fire departments.

While Island County’s incidents were lower than other reporting counties, the total amount of injuries and fires in the state was unusually high.

“Last year was an especially bad year,” she said. “Some people don’t realize how hot fireworks can be.”

Jones said a Sparkler, a type of firework often handed to small children because it seems harmless, can reach 1,200 degrees and is a burn hazard.

Jan Smith, a spokeswoman for the Island County Sheriff’s Office, said her office is urging Island County residents to be safe and respectful of their neighbors when it comes to lighting fireworks. With the summer drought starting and evening winds picking up, Smith said fireworks must be kept away from dry vegetation.

“It’s dry out there, potentially a fire hazard,” she said. “We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable long weekend.”

According to David Slepyan, a plastic surgeon in Coupeville, patients he has treated for firework-related injuries did not use common sense before they were injured. Some people are hurt from holding a firework they believe will only explode in one direction.

“They don’t realize thing can go off both ways,” he said.

The most common injuries Slepyan sees are to the hands or face. While some are due to exploding fireworks, phosphorus burns are also common.

“They bend over it because it doesn’t go off and then it goes off,” he said. “If you pick it up you’re asking for it to explode in your hand.”

Residents urged to be safe near holiday

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