More fireworks in Americans’ hands for July 4 raises risks

More fireworks in Americans’ hands for July 4 raises risks

ATLANTA — For many Americans, the Fourth of July will be more intimate this year. It also could be riskier.

Saturday will be unlike any Independence Day in recent memory. From Atlanta to San Diego, hundreds of fireworks shows have been cancelled as officials restrict large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as infections surge across the U.S.

With fewer professional celebrations, many Americans are bound to shoot off fireworks in backyards and at block parties. And they already are: Sales have been booming. Some public safety officials say consumer fireworks in more hands means greater danger of injuries and wildfires in parts of the country experiencing dry, scorching weather.

“The general public is buying more than ever before,” said Steve Houser, president of the National Fireworks Association.

While it’s not clear exactly what is driving people to shops, some sellers think fireworks are a diversion for people who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.

“We’re seeing new customers … who usually don’t come to the fireworks tents,” said Robert Fletcher of Desert Sky Fireworks, which has locations across Arizona.

Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have received more complaints of illegal fireworks this summer than in previous years. While most states allow at least some types of consumer fireworks, many cities prohibit them, even non-explosive sparklers. But they acknowledge it is difficult to stop people from buying them just outside city limits where they’re legal.

In Arizona, which has battled wildfires for weeks, thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for Gov. Doug Ducey to ban fireworks this summer.

Delanie Thompson, 28, said she started the petition after seeing a neighbour’s house engulfed in flames last week during a wildfire in Phoenix. She said she and her boyfriend were forced to evacuate their home for 30 hours.

Thompson said she got angry when she later saw a roadside tent selling fireworks in a nearby town.

The Fourth of July is “about our independence,” she said. “Not just about fireworks.”

Authorities in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale seized nearly 4,000 pounds of banned fireworks this week after getting a tip about an illegal sales operation at a house.

Fireworks can be a big danger as many parts of the American West struggle with drought, turning vegetation into tinder for flames.

“It definitely compounds the risk for starting wildfires,” Jessica Gardetto, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said of fireworks.

The centre is predicting more wildfires than usual in July across a swath of the U.S. West. And fires started by retail fireworks tend to burn near homes, said Gardetto, who has heard them explode every day for the last week in her neighbourhood.

Fires are just one cause for concern. Some doctors fear injuries will increase this year as more people experiment with fireworks at home.

Dr. Erin Miller, a hand surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said she amputated 42 fingers due to fireworks injuries last year while she was on call during the Fourth of July.

She has simple advice for revelers: Do not use larger fireworks like mortars and cherry bombs.

“Do not mix alcohol or any other substances if you’re choosing to use fireworks,” she added.

But not everyone is as alarmed by the increased interest in consumer fireworks.

“It’s business as usual for us,” said Chris James, a spokesman for the Glendale Fire Department.

The agency will have extra units on standby like usual for the holiday, he said. He recommends having water and a fire extinguisher nearby.

“It’s basic common sense we try to preach,” James said.

Fire departments and many sellers also urge people to have a sober “designated shooter,” said Houser of the National Fireworks Association.

Some in the industry believe monthslong lockdowns during the pandemic explain the increased interest in blowing off steam with fireworks.

“We’ve all been cooped up at home. We all have a lot of added stresses,” said James Fuller, a spokesman for TNT Fireworks. “I think a lot of folks want to feel good again.”

Suman Naishadham, The Associated Press

Fireworks

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

East Central Express also offers wedding or event shuttle services and tours of the Rocky Mountains. Photo courtesy of East Central Express.
On-demand bus service will now stop in Lacombe

As the winter months arrive, Rob Duncan expects demand for his bus and taxi services to grow

The influenza vaccine will be available at no cost starting Monday in Alberta. “The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs," says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get flu shot as COVID cases jump by 332

Alberta’s central zone now has 132 active COVID-19 cases

A new biorefinery that will turn organic waste into natural energy was announced in Lacombe on Oct. 15. From left to right: Steve MacDonald, CEO of Emissions Reduction Alberta, Grant Creasey, Mayor of the City of Lacombe, Ron Orr, MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka, Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks and Chris Thrall, President and CEO of BioRefinex Canada Inc. (Photo Courtesey of The City of Lacombe)
Lacombe to become world’s first site for a new type of clean energy facility

A biorefinery will be built in 2021 creating temporary and full-time jobs, the province announced.

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Most Read