Officials urge precaution as holiday approaches

Jozsef Papp The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
Shooting fireworks on the Fourth of July is a source of great pleasure, but also a cause of numerous painful holiday injuries. Dreamstime/TNS

AUGUSTA — (TNS) One of the most dangerous periods for burn injuries is coming up Thursday and a Georgia hospital is preparing for the expected.

“We definitely see an influx of patients during the Fourth of July, and then we also see it an influx of patients during the New Year’s, as it relates to fireworks,” said Beretta Coffman, physician assistant at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. “We see burns year-round. The hands injuries are what we are starting to see more and more of during the Fourth of July holiday.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 12,900 people were seen at U.S. hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries in 2017. About two in five fires started by fireworks each year are reported on the Fourth of July, according to the association.

Coffman said the center usually starts seeing an increase in patients the weekend before the Fourth and several days after the holiday. Most of the injuries are fireworks-related, but they do see other type of incidents.

“We do see lots of injuries related to fireworks, but also grilling accidents,” she said. “We have quite a few children that end up walking through hot coals that have been left to cool at campsites.”

Most of the injuries are hand and facial burns, but there are cases in which someone’s clothing catches on fire and burn around 60 to 70 percent of their bodies. Coffman said improper use of fireworks can also lead to severe hand injuries.

“The majority of what we see are small burns, but it can be life-altering,” she said. “A firework that blows up in your hand can cause a burn, loss of (fingers), sometimes even loss of the entire hand.”

At Wacky Wayne’s Fireworks in North Augusta, store manager Skip Playford said he sold a lot of fireworks this weekend and expect sales to ramp up again closer to Thursday. He feels a lot of injuries are caused due to mishandling or carelessness.

He encourages his customers to exercise caution.

“There is always the potential for danger, but if the instructions are followed and you take safety precautions, generally fireworks are safe,” he said.

Coffman said alcohol is often involved in some injuries. According to WalletHub, Fourth of July is America’s top beer-drinking holiday.

The Burn Center recommends assigning one person to shoot off fireworks and having nearby a fire extinguisher and bucket of water. Coffman said a safe zone should be created around the fireworks area.

“An adult should be the one shooting the fireworks, this is not something that kids should be participating in,” she said.

“People need to just take it very seriously. What we all think is fun can turn bad very quickly.”