Fire Prevention 52: What's Hot & What's Not When It Comes to Fireworks

By Eric Anderson, Structural Fire Training Specialist 
Statue of liberty with sky full of fireworks
Did you know that July 4th has the most reported fires, with almost half being caused by fireworks?

We all have our traditions for celebrating Independence Day. For me it was always a visit to my grandparents' house to see the city's large fireworks show as well as our own smaller fireworks display in the backyard. Fortunately, we never caused any injuries or fires, but each year, many people are not so fortunate.

According to the NFPA, in 2009 alone, over 18,000 fires were caused by personal use of fireworks, including 1,300 structure fires, resulting in $38 million in property damage. That same year, 8,800 people were treated in emergency rooms for firework-related injuries, the majority of which were children ages 10 to 14.

Firecrackers, rockets, fountains - pyrotechnics come in all types, shapes and sizes. The one thing they all have in common is how dangerous they are. Even sparklers, which many people assume are 'safe' fireworks for their children, pose a hazard. Sparklers burn at over 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit; hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns and ignite almost any material.

So if you want to enjoy the sights and sounds of a good fireworks show, consider letting the professionals dazzle you. Most communities have a professional show on the 3rd or 4th of July.

Fire Info for You

Employees
Possession or use of fireworks within the boundaries of a National Park Service site is prohibited, as provided for in 36 CFR 2.38 (b). However, the superintendent may provide a special use permit, such as for a professional display during a special event. Visitors and employees living in the parks should not possess or use fireworks.

When celebrating with fireworks outside your park, remember to be prepared, be safe and be responsible.

Park Leadership
Are your park employees and visitors aware of the regulations? Do environmental conditions such as high fire danger warrant additional staffing for fire response? If your park staffs an engine company, are they aware of the differences in consumer fireworks from homemade explosive devices? Ensure that all visitors to the park are aware of the regulations and report violations to proper law enforcement.

Take Action

If you decide to light your own fireworks, use these tips to stay safe:

  • Be Prepared: Have a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby. Create a cleared level surface away from things that can burn, or place fireworks on a large metal plate that will catch sparks.
  • Be Safe: Follow the safety instructions on the firework package. Light one device at a time. Keep all spectators a safe distance away. If a device does not fire or discharge as it should, it can be extremely dangerous! Keep away from it for at least 15 minutes and then carefully place in a bucket of water and soak thoroughly.
  • Be Responsible: Do not let children light fireworks. Don't wait - call 911 immediately in the event of a fire or injury.

NPS Fire Facts

Though possession or use of fireworks within the boundaries of a National Park Service site is prohibited, there are several parks that host fireworks displays to celebrate Independence Day and other special events. One example is the Salute to Independence held at Antietam National Battlefield each year.

Last updated: October 20, 2016