Many thanks to Assistant Fire Chief Bart Wright for his contribution to this week's City Talk article. Please enjoy a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July with your friends and family!
"Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change," is an assertion made by Dr. Wayne Dyer and one that if applied to the public's view about fireworks, could have profound effects toward improving the public's health, safety and welfare.
On numerous occasions in the past, Florida's fire officials have been patently clear about how they feel regarding consumer fireworks. Each year, related to New Year's and Fourth of July celebrations, to name just two events, the fireworks issue is ignited (no pun intended). And what's changed in all these years? As a brief answer...not much.
In Florida we have no such thing as legal 'consumer fireworks' and yet each year people and property are harmed by the effects and illegal use of these fireworks, most of which are purchased out of state and transported back to Florida. To better understand why this is the case, one needs to know what 'consumer fireworks' are.
Loosely described, consumer fireworks is any explosive device that goes 'boom,' 'bang' and/or leaves the ground following ignition or explosion. In 2008, and 2009, articles presented by the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA), the Florida State Fire Marshal's Office (SFMO) and untold others, invited readers to acquire a better understanding of this very significant and potentially debilitating activity. It was recommended that the public consider the position and data amassed by the premiere life safety organization in the U.S., the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of Batterymarch Park, Mass. That national organization publishes data on this and all facets of fires and fire safety across the nation (see its report). For other information about Florida's fireworks, go to the SFMO's website and download the consumer safety brochure.
In that report, it notes that in 2008, 7,000 fireworks-related injuries were treated in the U.S. hospital emergency rooms, which represents an increasing trend since 1996 except for two years of spikes and one year of a decrease.
In that same year, there were an estimated 22,500 reported fires started by fireworks resulting in one civilian death, 40 civilian injuries, and represented $42 million in direct property damage.
Consumer fireworks are dangerous! The Public Education Division of NFPA reports comparative information relative to the risk of injury in very understandable terms: Water boils at 212 degrees, wood burns at 575ËšF, glass melts at 900ËšF, but the simplest of fireworks legally permitted in this state are sparklers and they burn at 1200ËšF!
The highest rates of injuries per million population were for teens between the ages of 15 to 19 and young children ages 5 to 9. The report continued by pointing out that the risk of fire death relative to exposure shows fireworks to be the riskiest consumer products for death due to fire.
Florida law makes it "…unlawful for any person, firm co-partnership, or corporation to offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, or use or explode any fireworks…," less certain exemptions that include sparklers. (s.791.02)
Let's make this year 100 percent injury free. If you enjoy fireworks, go see them at a commercially presented and licensed show. But don't do them in your neighborhood where injury and property damage to friends, neighbors and loved ones can occur.
For information or questions about this important matter, please call the Maitland Fire Department at 407-539-6229.