Celebrating bright: how to use fireworks safely

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Each Fourth of July, Americans across the country recreate the vivid portrait painted by Francis Scott Key in The Star-Spangled Banner: we tint the night sky with rockets' red glare with bombs bursting in air. An Independence Day without fireworks is almost unthinkable.

However, to prevent something truly unthinkable from happening, celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks needs to be done safely.

Tech. Sgt. William Wojtylko, 90th Missile Wing Safety Office non-commissioned officer-in-charge of ground safety, offers some firework safety tips that could keep you out of legal trouble.

It is important to be familiar with applicable firework laws in the local area, he said. On base and within Cheyenne city limits, all forms of fireworks are illegal, including snappers and sparklers.

In Laramie County, outside of Cheyenne city limits, fireworks are legal, but only on private property with permission of the property owner, Wojtylko said.

The first thing people should do when they intend to legally use fireworks is familiarize themselves with the fireworks, he said.

"The way to do that is to read the caution labels,"Wojtylko said. "The caution labels will tell you how long the fuse is supposed to last. It'll give you some safety tips."

The second thing is to use common sense, he said. This means taking preventive measures like having water available to put out any fires or douse spent fireworks.

Sometimes people attempting to liven up a firework show might put themselves in a dangerous situation.

"One of the big things we see is people will try to fire off multiple fireworks at one time, and while they're trying to get additional ones lit, the first ones will go off. You don't want to be close to them, so light the fuse one at a time and get clear of it."

Byron Mathews, Cheyenne Fire and Rescue chief of prevention, had some more tips to add.

He mentioned homemade and illegal fireworks are especially dangerous and account for four deaths in 2011.

Those who use fireworks illegally, use illegal fireworks (such as the m-80) or use homemade fireworks risk prosecution if caught by law enforcement.

"Fireworks are dangerous, so we need a heightened awareness," Mathews said. "Don't be under the influence."

Never attempt to re-ignite or pick up fireworks that were lit but did not go off because they could go off in close proximity to the person approaching them, he said.

Also, children should never be allowed to play with or ignite fireworks, and adults using fireworks should closely supervise any nearby children.

There are grave dangers for those who ignore fireworks safety, Wojtylko said.

"Most of the injuries that occur from fireworks are burns," Mathews said. "However, there's also absolutely the danger that you may lose use of limbs, or lose those limbs."

Each year, about 200 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room for fireworks related injuries, he said. Of these injuries, 65 percent occur on or near the Fourth of July.

Fireworks may seem like an innocuous way to celebrate, but they have the potential to start fires, Wojtylko said. Careless fireworks users can ignite brush fires, burn vehicles or homes if they set fireworks off too close to them. The dangers posed by fireworks can harm more than just their users if they start an out-of-control fire.

If someone desires a fireworks show, Wojtylko recommends viewing the free show Cheyenne is scheduled to host July 4 beginning 9:35 p.m. in the Frontier Park Arena.

"Leave it to the professionals," Wojtylko said.