Officials urging safety with fireworks ahead of holiday weekend

Officials urging safety with fireworks ahead of holiday weekend
Injuries from Fireworks (Source: International Association of Fire Fighters)
Injuries from Fireworks (Source: International Association of Fire Fighters)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Lowcountry officials hoping for a smooth holiday weekend without any major accidents as fireworks fill the night sky.

The International Association for Fire Fighters say more than 11,000 people are injured every year handling fireworks.

Forty-six percent of those injured are to the hands and fingers, 34% to the head, face, ears and eyes.

"It was fun, just not worth it," said James Liberatos, who caught himself on fire.

Liberatos doesn't have any scars from his firework accident, but he does say it took him by surprise at 15 years old.

"Some of my friends went out, bought a lot of bottle rockets, and had a little bottle rocket war," he said. "We shot them at each other. I had a few in my coat and got hit. A bottle rocket went off and set the ones off in my coat."

Looking back on the incident now, he knows it wasn't the best idea, but he and his friends were having fun.

"I could hear the fuses going off and one of them lit off in my jacket," Liberatos said. "I just kind of ran around patting my upper body making sure nothing else was on fire."

"We have a full proof treatment for injury and trauma, and that's prevention," said Dr. Keith Borg, MD, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine and Division Director of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at MUSC. "A little bit of careful planning, a little bit of careful thought before your celebration will go a long way."

Doctors and fire officials say it's typical to see firework injuries this time of year.

Fire departments get thousands of calls this holiday weekend.

"For most people they use these at most once a year," said Charleston Deputy Fire Marshal Rick Anewalt. "So they're not very used to what they're doing and when they light the fuse they expect something to happen instantaneously or delayed and vice versa happens."

"The common thing we see is actually hand injuries whether they're adults or pediatric patients," Borg said. "Second would be face. We certainly see those every year. We see about three-quarters of firework injuries around this period, around the fourth of July every year."

Borg said a majority of those accidents happen with teenage boys ages 10 to 15, like Liberatos was.

"It's not really worth it that much," Liberatos said. "It might be fun for five minutes until someone catches on fire."

If you're planning to light off fireworks this weekend make sure you have enough space outside to do so, and officials are asking you to discard them property.

Also only certain cities and towns in the Lowcountry allow you to set them off.

It is legal to set fireworks off in: Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Dorchester counties, Goose Creek, Hanahan, the Town of James Island, Moncks Corner, Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, Summerville, Walterboro.

It is illegal to set off fireworks in the City of Charleston.

"We have too many old structures, too close together," said Anewalt. "One bad mistake with the ocean breezes coming in you could lose a block, literally, in no time."

This includes areas of West Ashley, Johns and James Islands and Daniel Island. Also on all our area beaches Folly Beach, the Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island.

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