By Wayne Gates
Fireworks season is here. With the fourth of July falling on a Wednesday this year, many people are celebrating Independence Day a little early, or perhaps a little late on the weekends as well as during the day itself. This time of year is one of the least favorite for emergency responders. Accidental injuries from fireworks, fires and other issues caused by fireworks use all rise sharply around the fourth of July. In 2014, over ten thousand people nationally went to the emergency room for treatment of fireworks injuries between June 20 and July 20, with almost half of them under 19 years old. Sparklers accounted for 28 percent of the injuries, followed by firecrackers. The statistics were compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Mt. Orab Fire Chief Lisa Reeves has seen the damage firsthand. “The majority of the time, the injuries we see are to children. Something as simple as a sparkler will cause a severe burn. The sparks hit their arms or their legs or their feet or they end up getting touched by the sparkler itself.” Reeves said that alcohol always makes the problem worse. “I have seen a person lose both of his hands from the elbows down due to mixing alcohol and fireworks. When you add alcohol into the mix, people start getting careless.” Brown County Sheriff Gordon Ellis said that the fourth of July is a busy time for his agency as well. “We get a lot of calls about fireworks being set off. And when we are called, we respond,” he said. What happens when deputies arrive depends on the situation. “Public safety is our first priority. If we see anything that we feel is a risk to public safety, whether that is excessive alcohol use or an unsafe environment for children or any other issue, we will take action,” Ellis said. According to Ohio law, anything that explodes is illegal to use in the state. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, “The only items that can be used in Ohio are designated “trick and novelty,” which smoke, pop, and/or sparkle. In Ohio, use of 1.4g fireworks (fire crackers, bottle rockets, etc.) is illegal.” Reeves said that fireworks use stresses the public safety system in a number of ways. “People tend to call 911 a lot when they hear fireworks going off. It results in a lot of false calls,” she said. “Other problems come when people start importing fireworks that are not legal in Ohio. Other states sell fireworks that are more powerful than you can buy legally here.” Reeves said that if someone chooses to set off fireworks, they should follow a few common sense rules. “The first thing they need to do is make sure that their fireworks are approved in the state of Ohio and that they can shoot them off in their backyard,” she said. If so, Reeves said other preparations need to be made. “They need to have a safety area set aside for the people that are shooting them off. It needs to be a n area where kids aren’t running around and where there is no dogs that might knock something over. They also need to make sure they have enough room to set them off. Not all backyards are appropriate for setting off fireworks.” Reeves said that all use instructions listed on fireworks should be followed.