The State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) and Minnesota firefighters are bracing for an uptick in fireworks injuries and property damage as people put on their own fireworks celebrations following the cancellation of many public shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minnesota State Fire Marshal Jim Smith is asking Minnesotans to find safe and creative alternatives for celebrating Independence Day in order to prevent injuries and help reduce the strain on first responders and emergency rooms.
“The past few months have been stressful for us all and we know people want to celebrate the Fourth of July, but fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable. We need Minnesotans to be safe, not sorry. Let’s not place further burdens on first responders and emergency room staff still working tirelessly to deal with COVID-19," Smith said.
Flying or exploding fireworks are illegal in Minnesota, but legal fireworks like sparklers – which can burn at up to 1,200 degrees – can be just as dangerous and may cause injury.
“When adults put fun before safety, kids end up getting hurt,” Smith added. “Fireworks can cause devastating injuries in an instant.”
Last year in Minnesota, 59 people ended up in hospitals with fireworks injuries – 43 percent of them age 19 and under. Kids age nine and under accounted for 16 percent of fireworks injuries in 2019, many of which were caused by sparklers. The SFMD estimates many more injuries are likely unaccounted for because people treat them at home.
Dr. Ryan Fey of the Hennepin Healthcare Burn Center said fireworks can cause devastating injuries not only due to burns but also other traumatic injuries from explosive force.
“This can result in severe permanent disability ranging from loss of hands, eyes or large wounds,” Fey explained. “Without question, these are preventable injuries.”
Fire officials are also concerned about property damage. Fireworks caused $190,351 in damage to homes and other structures in Minnesota last June and July. There are few safe and legal spots to use fireworks in densely populated urban areas.
Remember, state law only permits fireworks to be used on private property — not streets, alleys, parks or schools or government property.
Those who do use fireworks or participate in a neighborhood show, remember:
• To use fireworks responsibly, especially around children. Kids mimic adult behavior.
• If it flies or explodes, it’s illegal in Minnesota.
• Fireworks can be disruptive to neighbors and frightening to pets.
• To use fireworks outdoors, far from property and crowds.
• Don’t let children or animals run through the area where fireworks are being set off. They could step on a spent firework that is still hot.
• Sparklers can cause serious burns. Consider using glow sticks or light-up wands as an alternative.
• To use a long lighter meant for a gas grill to light fireworks.
• Do not try to re-light a dud. Ever.
• Soak used fireworks in water and leave them outside overnight before discarding into trash containers.
The SFMD is encouraging families to decorate their driveways and sidewalks with colorful chalk art as an alternative to lighting fireworks.
The SFMD has shared some examples on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What’s legal in Minnesota?
• Wire or wood sparklers
• Smoke devices
• Snappers and drop-caps
What is not legal?
• Sky rockets
• Bottle rockets
• Roman candles
To purchase fireworks in Minnesota, customers must be at least 18 years old.
In Minnesota, possession of less than 35 pounds of illegal fireworks is subject to a fine of up to $700 and 90 days in jail. Possession of more than 35 pounds is subject to a fine of up to $3,000 and a year in jail.
Learn more on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Web site at dps.mn.gov.