Fireworks safety should not be ignored this holiday weekend

July 1, 2021

NFL player Jason Pierre-Paul almost lost a hand and career to legal fireworks

Jason Pierre-Paul

In the summer of 2015, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was involved in a fireworks accident that resulted in him losing part of his right hand and fingers. Pierre-Paul was rushed to a South Florida hospital, ultimately spending weeks there while undergoing 10 surgeries and rigorous treatment.

Pierre-Paul purchased $1,100 worth of fireworks for his family and friends to set off over July Fourth weekend. They had almost all been set off by midnight, but a friend pointed out that they should finish them off. Pierre-Paul attempted seven times to set off the last batch, but was unsuccessful. He tried one last time, and then:

“I remember a big flash, and I heard boom!” said Farraw Germain, the mother of Pierre-Paul’s then 8-monthold son, Josiah. “There was a lot of smoke.” Pierre-Paul sensed trouble right away. “As soon as I saw the green light, I jumped,” he said. “I knew something dangerous was about to happen.”

Pierre-Paul dropped to the grass. But when he arose he smelled nothing, felt nothing. Then he heard Germain shriek in terror, “Your hand!”

“I’m looking at my [right] hand and I’m seeing every ligament,” he recalled. “You only see this stuff in the movies.”

Upon arriving at the hospital, Pierre-Paul was given emergency surgeries and heavy doses of pain medication. In all Pierre-Paul spent two and a half weeks in the hospital. He had 10 surgeries and lost 30 pounds during that time.

Pierre-Paul was lucky, in 2017, eight people died and more than 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents. Of these, 50 percent of the injuries were to children and young adults under age 20. Over two-thirds (67 percent) of injuries took place from June 16 to July 16. And while the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional- grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, an estimated 1,200 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers.

Additionally, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires.

If you choose to use legal fireworks

If consumer fireworks are legal to buy where you live and you choose to use them, be sure to follow the following safety tips:

• Never allow young children to handle fireworks
• Older children should use them only under close adult supervision
• Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
• Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear
• Never hold lighted fireworks in your hands
• Never light them indoors
• Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person
• Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting
• Never ignite devices in a container
• Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
• Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
• Keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire
• Never use illegal fireworks

Better yet, grab a blanket and a patch of lawn, kick back and let the experts handle the fireworks show.

Sparklers are dangerous

Every year, young children can be found along parade routes and at festivals with sparklers in hand, but sparklers are a lot more dangerous than most people think.

Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries. For children under 5 years of age, sparklers accounted for nearly half of the total estimated injuries.

Consider using safer alternatives, such as glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.