Fireworks as part of Independence Day festivities are a tradition as old as the nation itself. In 1776, future President John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that the country’s independence should be celebrated with “bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Many Arkansans will undoubtedly carry on the practice, whether by viewing a professionally managed display or by purchasing their own fireworks. For those who choose to use fireworks themselves, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to offer safety tips and inform consumers about state law regarding fireworks.
“Fireworks are an American tradition and an important part of Independence Day events for many of us, but fireworks can be extremely dangerous when not used properly,” McDaniel said. “Those who light fireworks should take some precautions to make the day safe and enjoyable for everyone.”
A study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that 60 percent of all fireworks-related injuries last year occurred in the 30 days surrounding the July 4 holiday. In 2012, six people were killed from injuries caused by fireworks and about 8,700 people were treated in emergency rooms.
According to the CPSC, more than half of fireworks-related injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. Most injuries are associated with malfunctioning fireworks or improper use.
Arkansas’s “Fireworks Act” limits the types of fireworks that can be sold in the state and the amount of explosive material that each firework may contain.
Firework vendors must obtain a state license and follow certain restrictions, including prohibitions against selling fireworks to anyone under the age of 12 or to anyone who appears to be intoxicated. Local laws may also apply to fireworks sales.
Only “Class C” fireworks are permitted for use, and such can only be sold from June 20 to July 10 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 5. Each product must be labeled “I.C.C. Class C Common fireworks.” The class includes Roman candles, skyrockets, helicopter-type rockets, cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, wheels, illuminating torches, mines and shells, firecrackers and salutes.
Other devices, such as sparklers, smoke sticks without report and serpentine pop-off novelties, may be sold at any time.
McDaniel and the CPSC encouraged consumers who handle fireworks this year to follow these safety recommendations:
• Only buy legal fireworks from vendors who have a proper state license.
• Properly supervise children and make sure that adults light all fireworks, even sparklers. Keep in mind that sparklers burn at a temperature of about 2,000 degrees.
• Have a garden hose or bucket of water available in case of fire.
• Only light one firework at a time.
• Make sure to be a safe distance from others before lighting fireworks and never aim fireworks at other people. Those lighting fireworks should never place any part of their body directly over a fireworks device when lighting a fuse.
• Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
• To avoid the possibility of a trash fire, dispose of spent fireworks by dousing them in water before throwing them away.
• Never re-light a malfunctioning or “dud” firework. Instead, soak it in water and throw it away.
• Do not buy fireworks packaged in brown paper. This is often a sign that the fireworks are intended for professional displays and could be dangerous to consumers.
For more information on this or other consumer matters, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the division at (800) 482-8982.