This Independence Day, hundreds of Californians will end up in an emergency room with injuries caused by fireworks.
Since 2010, the number of emergency room visits in the state caused by fireworks has been steadily rising, according to data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Seven years ago, 202 people were treated in the emergency room for these injuries. That number increased to 373 in 2016 – the most injuries yet in the 11 years of data available.
While the number of fireworks injuries across the years in the United States is more erratic, there has also been a general upward trend since 2008, according to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2016, people made 11,100 trips to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries. That compared to 7,000 in 2008, with a high of 11,900 in 2015.
The majority of these injuries occurred during the monthlong period surrounding Independence Day. Out of the 11,100 injuries in 2016, 7,600 occurred between June 18 and July 18, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Furthermore, people under the age of 24 suffered 54 percent of these injuries. Burns constituted 69 percent of the injuries, and the most common areas of the body injured were the hand or finger, followed by the head, face, ear and leg.
Fire Chief Walt White of the Sacramento Fire Department urged people to use fireworks the way they were intended, ensure that children and teenagers have adult supervision and properly discard fireworks in non-combustible bins.
“If you have things that don’t fly and explode, don’t try to make them fly and explode,” White said.
The Fire Department also cautions against creating off-the-ground displays where fireworks are lit at waist-level or higher.
“Keep them on the ground,” said Chris Harvey, spokesman for the Sacramento Fire Department. “If a firework falls over on the ground, it’s not as dangerous as something at eye level that falls over and is spraying sparks horizontally.”
While Harvey said he personally hasn’t seen any fireworks-related injuries yet this year, he has seen an uptick over the past few years as illegal fireworks have become more common in Sacramento and across the country.
Sacramento’s location at the intersection of interstates 5 and 80 makes it a “unique” nexus for illegal fireworks from Nevada, Oregon and Mexico, Harvey said. Large rockets and other high-impact fireworks can legally be sold on American Indian reservations in Nevada and Oregon, and they often make their way to Sacramento.
“They are very easy to put in your trunk,” Harvey said.