State Fire Marshal urges fireworks safety as July 4th approaches

By on July 1, 2009

More than 100 people injured by fireworks last year
Although state law prohibits their use by consumers, fireworks reportedly caused 103 injuries around the July 4th holiday last year in Illinois.

State Fire Marshal David B. Foreman wants to prevent these and many other fireworks injuries this year and is urging Illinois residents to play it safe by leaving dangerous fireworks to the professionals.

“For many people, fireworks are as much a part of the 4th of July as a turkey is to Thanksgiving,” Foreman said. “However, fireworks can be very dangerous in untrained hands, and each year many children and adults are injured, some quite severely. The best way to enjoy fireworks on America’s birthday is to watch one of the many professional displays that will be held in communities throughout the state. Professional fireworks shooters are trained to handle the inherent dangers in fireworks and can ensure that you and your family have a safe, happy holiday.”

Every year following the Fourth of July, the Office of the State Fire Marshal surveys Illinois hospitals for information on fireworks-related injuries. Overall, injuries have declined each year since a state law went into effect regulating fireworks in 2006. Seventy three of the state’s 198 hospitals responded to the survey last year with 103 injuries. Sixty-eight responded in 2007 and reported 125 people were treated for injuries. In 2006, 86 of the hospitals responded, reporting 155 injuries. More than 160 people were treated in 2005.

According to the latest statistics available from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 9,800 fireworks-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the country in 2007.

Under the Fireworks Use Act and the Pyrotechnic Distributor and Operator Licensing Act, anyone who plans to set off consumer or professional grade fireworks must meet safety standards that will protect the fireworks shooters and spectators, as well as homes and other property. The state’s fireworks law also regulates individuals, businesses or units of local government that put on an outdoor pyrotechnic display using display fireworks.

In order to shoot consumer fireworks in communities where allowed, an adult must attend training at their local fire department and pass a safety and knowledge test, apply for a site inspection by the fire department and apply for a permit issued by their local government. Once a permit has been issued, the consumer may purchase only approved consumer fireworks from a registered consumer fireworks distributor or retailer.

Even though novelty fireworks, such as snakes, sparklers and party-poppers, are not regulated by the state, Foreman wants parents to know that they can be as dangerous as those that are regulated. While often considered a harmless item that small children can enjoy, sparklers burn at high temperatures and remain extremely hot long after the sparks have stopped.

“Most sparkler injuries are to young children who don’t understand the extreme danger of this so-called novelty item,” Foreman said. “Most individuals do not realize that while matches burn at 325 degrees Fahrenheit and cakes bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the sparklers children play with burn at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. The best advice I can give to parents is to keep sparklers away from young children and closely supervise older children when they play with them.”

In addition to personal injuries, fireworks can cause structure and vehicle fires. According to NFPA, in a typical year more fires are reported in the United States on July 4th than any other day of the year and fireworks account for half of those fires. In 2007, fireworks caused nearly 100 fires in Illinois, causing injury to five firefighters and more than $1 million in property loss.

For more information about the state’s fireworks regulations, visit the OSFM website at