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More home fireworks shows expected this year, increasing risk for injuries


Looking for a fireworks display near you? Well, it’s pretty likely you won’t find it, nor a parade for that matter. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all home this Independence Day to enjoy the fireworks on a city’s Facebook page, likely as a rebroadcast from 2019.

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Because of social distancing guidelines, the Washington State Patrol says it’s expecting more people to ignite fireworks in their neighborhoods or at home.

Fireworks sales have already been booming.

“The general public is buying more than ever before,” said Steve Houser, president of the National Fireworks Association.

While it’s not clear exactly what is driving people to shops, some sellers think fireworks are a diversion for people who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.

“We’ve all been cooped up at home. We all have a lot of added stresses,” said James Fuller, a spokesman for TNT Fireworks. “I think a lot of folks want to feel good again.”

Most local jurisdictions have completely banned the use of fireworks, whether legal or illegal in Washington state. You’ll need to check with your local jurisdiction to determine whether it’s legal.

The state law is as follows:

Consumer fireworks may be used or discharged each day between the hours of twelve o’clock noon and eleven o’clock p.m. on the twenty-eighth of June and between the hours of nine o’clock a.m. and eleven o’clock p.m. on the twenty-ninth of June to the third of July, and on July 4th between the hours of nine o’clock a.m. and twelve o’clock midnight, and between the hours of nine o’clock a.m. and eleven o’clock p.m. on July 5th.

Hand surgeons are worried that injuries from home fireworks shows will increase this year.

“As hand surgeons at Harborview Medical Center’s trauma center in Seattle, patients frequently have digit amputations and we’re able to put them back on,” said Dr. Erin Miller, a UW Medicine hand surgeon at Harborview Medical Center. “A nice clean cut or a saw, we can save a finger. When it’s a firework injury, there’s nothing left I have to save because it’s not a clean cut. Everything is blown apart.”

Miller said she was on call the week of July 4 last year, and saw 30 cases and had to amputate 42 fingers due to fireworks injuries.

Her advice is to avoid using fireworks, especially mortars and cherry bombs, and don’t mix alcohol or drugs if you choose to ignite them.

Every year, the Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office releases data about the previous year’s Fourth of July incidents. In total, the office says it received 349 reports of fireworks related injuries from hospitals, clinics, and fire agencies across the state. Of those incidents, there were 269 injuries and 80 fires.

There was a 30% increase in fireworks related injuries in 2019. Ninety-eight injuries were caused by holding on to fireworks after lighting them.

The 80 fireworks related fires resulted in about $565K in losses. Of those 80 fires, 51 were classified as wildland or vegetation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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