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Rockets’ red glare can be a safety hazard, fire officials warn

Fireworks hours

Indiana restricts hours fireworks may be used:

Now through July 9

(except July 4)

5 p.m. to two hours after sunset

July Fourth

10 a.m. to midnight

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Updated: August 2, 2013 7:00AM



Night skies around the region soon will light up in celebration of the Fourth of July.

Signs directing motorists to the next nearest fireworks store line streets and displays of variety pack fireworks greet shoppers in big box retailers, warehouse clubs and even grocery stores.

Fireworks are as much a part of the holiday as cook-outs and parades. While many local municipalities offer grand displays, more families are taking to their own backyards with shows that are a miniversion of the professional displays.

“Fireworks are becoming more and more a family thing,” said Thomas O’Connor, owner of Boomtown Fireworks USA in Merrillville. O’Connor began selling fireworks in Northwest Indiana 16 years ago and has seen the business grow. He said fireworks can be good family fun if used properly, but for those who do not respect fireworks are explosives a backyard display can quickly turn tragic.

For 83 Hoosiers last year, good times turned bad quickly in the wake of fireworks accidents, according to the 2012 Indiana State Firework Related Injury Report compiled by the Indiana State Department of Health. The double-digit number marks a significant drop from years prior where injuries have remained above 100, and is considered an anomaly due to the large number of drought-related fireworks bans throughout the state in 2012.

Out of those 83 accidents, 61.4 percent occurred on private property and 36 percent involved children and adolescents under age 18, according to the report. One of those accidents resulted in the amputation of the victim’s leg, the most severe cost a local man his life.

Nicholas Saberniak, 26, of Lowell was killed after a fireworks accident at his Jansen Court home. According to police, Saberniak was dropping an unspecified type of firework into a homemade mortar-type tube when one of the fireworks went off prematurely and hit him in the face.

More than half of the fireworks injuries in 2012, 55.4 percent, were caused by malfunctioning fireworks or their improper use, according to the ISDH report. About 12 percent of the injuries reported in 2012 were eye injuries and of those 92.9 percent of the victims were not wearing eye protection.

With proper care and materials and safety gear it is possible to avoid most injuries.

“The first thing is we understand fireworks are a part of people’s celebration of Independence Day. We want them to use common sense and conduct basic safety to stay safe during the holiday,” said John Erickson, spokesman for the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office.

Even a holiday staple as innocuous as a sparkler can be the source of severe burns if care is not taken. The average sparkler burns at about 1,200 degrees, hot enough to solder metal and 300 degrees hotter than the temperature to melt glass, he said.

Erickson said amateurs planning their own pyrotechnic displays need to follow some basic safety points including ensuring they are shooting the fireworks off on their own property and avoiding obstructions like power lines and trees when choosing a location. It is also important to have a water source such as a hose or filled bucket nearby in case something does go wrong.

Do not try to relight dead fireworks, Erikson said, adding it also is a good idea to not smoke or use alcohol while lighting off fireworks.

O’Connor said safety is the most important aspect of planning a personal display and an educated staff can help consumers be prepared

“People don’t use fireworks all year long so they really don’t know there what they should do,” he said.

Consumers often think they can drop a rocket in regular PVC pipe and light the fuse. He advised pipe should be HDPE, high density polyethylene, or it could shatter, propelling shrapnel like shards. The launching tube also should be anchored to a base to provide stability.

O’Connor said another way to stabilize the launching tube is to put it in a bucket of sand. When a firework does not explode he advises waiting for a while and, if it still does not explode, douse it with water before handling it.

“There are all kinds of things that are dangerous. There is a right way and wrong way to use them,” O’Connor said.



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