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Fireworks Safety: A July 4th How-To

They're fun, but they can be a dangerous part of your festivities. Here's what you need to know.

Fireworks Safety: A July 4th How-To

No Fourth of July celebration would be complete without fireworks. Residents across the Twin Cities will flock to professional fireworks displays in the coming days. Many will even buy fireworks to enjoy on their own.

Of course, fireworks are governed by state law and many popular types are illegal in Minnesota.

Tom Jenson, Edina Fire Marshal, offers two criteria to judge if a firework is legal in Minnesota:

  • It does not leave the ground
  • It does not cause an explosive effect.

This means that many popular types of fireworks—some of which are legal in neighboring states—are against the law in Minnesota. These include bottle rockets, roman candles and firecrackers.

Jenson says the major concern with launching fireworks is the lack of control after they launch.

“Once you light them, you don’t know where they’re going to land.”

And sometimes they don’t land where they’re supposed to.

In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,100 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 other fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. These fires resulted in an estimated 60 non-firefighter injuries and caused $36 million in direct property damage.

Minnesota has had its share of incidents.

Jenson said a few years ago the Edina, St. Louis Park and Richfield fire departments were called to a roof fire at a house. It later was determined that the fire was caused by some neighborhood youths who were firing off bottle rockets.

The house sustained damage to the roof from the fire and to the interior from firefighters' efforts to extinguish the blaze.

“Our recommendation is always to leave the fireworks to the professionals,” Jenson said. He also noted that even professionals are injured by fireworks from time to time.

Cary Smith, St. Louis Park fire marshal, agrees. “I don’t let my kids play with them at all”

Incidents of injuries or property damage from illegal fireworks in his community are rare, but second- and third-degree burns from sparkers are not unheard of, he said. Children are often at risk and must be supervised at all times around firework, he added.

“The don’t realize how hot the fireworks can get. All they can see are the pretty sparks.”

Sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns, Jenson said.

Perry Ebner, Minneapolis fire marshal, recommends taking precautions against so fireworks don't start fires.

Anyone using fireworks should have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher on hand, he said. If it’s hot, dry, and the wind is more than 10 mph, small recreational fires are banned. So no one should be shooting off fireworks under those conditions, he added. 

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