Top tips to stay safe with fireworks
Independence Day is right around new the corner and many Sacramento families are gearing up to eat delicious barbecued food and light fireworks in their driveways.
Others may be planning to attend public events, or even do some midweek traveling as the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday this year.
To help ease the stress a little, we've put together a roundup of safety tips and best practices for enjoying the celebration of America's independence.
The most important thing to remember is safety. According to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately four deaths and more than 11,000 injuries occurred in 2016 in the U.S. due to fireworks-related incidents.
"And while the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, thousands were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers," the National Safety Council said.
Furthermore, "each year, fireworks cause on average 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires resulting in thousands of injuries," the National Fire Protection Association reported in June 2017.
Ultimately, most of the safety groups and local fire departments recommend attending public fireworks displays in order to stay safe and to avoid any unintended non-compliance with local, state and federal laws.
Fortunately, there are lots of Fourth of July events in the area, including at Cal Expo and in Davis and Rancho Cordova. For a full list of fireworks displays and public events, take a look at our guide.
Though, because of the rapidly-spreading wildfires in California, fireworks displays in Winters have been canceled. Be sure to check with other event planners before heading out in case more events are canceled or rescheduled. Additionally, those sensitive to poor air quality might want to skip outdoor events this year.
For those who do decide to put on fireworks displays at home, if you're wondering which fireworks offer the best show for your dough, The Bee's summer interns recently participated in our annual fireworks test and review.
The city of Sacramento says to "use only fireworks, purchased from a licensed booth and bearing the State Fire Marshal seal." But using "safe and sane" fireworks isn't the only tip needed, as many fireworks injuries and accidents are attributed to legal and readily-available products.
Both the city of Sacramento and the National Safety Council offer tips on how to keep the whole family safe when using fireworks at home, which are amended below.
Read and follow all fireworks label directions.
Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Light only one firework at a time - always outdoors - in a clear and open space. Never ignite devices in a container, on a ladder, trash can or other elevated surface, or on a wooden fence.
Always maintain a safe distance from people, structures, trees, bushes, vehicles, and any flammable materials.
Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose or fire extinguisher nearby in order to fully extinguish a malfunctioning firework, if needed.
Never attempt to re-light or fix a “dud” firework. Properly dispose of fireworks. Douse spent fireworks with water. Soak unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding. Do not use fireworks purchased in years past.
Children should be closely supervised around fireworks. Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the end of a sparkler burns at more than 1,200 degrees! Glow sticks are a safer alternative. Older children should use fireworks only under close adult supervision.
Animals tend to become frightened by the lights and sounds of fireworks. Keep animals in a safe and secure location, away from firework activity. The SPCA offers several tips on how to keep pets safe and secure during the holiday celebrations.
- Always have a plan to get everyone away from the area if a fire should occur and make sure everyone is aware of the plan. Also, designate someone responsible for phoning 911 in case of an emergency.
When it comes to ensuring you are using legal fireworks and following local regulations. Remember that lighting fireworks is illegal in all counties surrounding Sacramento County. Here are some Sacramento-based tips (other cities will vary):
- Cal Fire says the state defines illegal fireworks as anything that goes up in the air or explodes. And use of illegal fireworks can carry heavy fines or even jail time.
- According to the city of Sacramento website, 'safe and sane' fireworks use is limited through midnight on July 4.
- Fireworks booth operators are allowed to continuing selling fireworks through July 4 at 10 p.m.
- Avoid buying from places like Craigslist as it can be difficult to identify if fireworks are legal and safe. Last month, Cal Fire busted seven people and stopped almost 50,000 pounds of illegal fireworks from hitting the streets.
- View the Cal Fire "safe and sane" fireworks 2018 information guide here for more on how to be sure the fireworks you are buying are indeed legal. The guide has a complete list of fireworks that have been deemed "safe and sane." Note that the times and dates for firework sales listed in the guide differ from the local ones listed above.
- According to the city, which has been cracking down on illegal fireworks this year, "to voluntarily turn in illegal fireworks or report illegal firework usage, please call 916-264-5471." There is also a phone app called Nail 'em that is available for Android and iPhone users to report illegal fireworks in their area.
- "For questions or complaints regarding fireworks booths and/or fireworks, aerial and/or proximate firework public display events, email Fire Prevention Team," the city's website suggests.
If planning to travel, keep in mind that according to a news release from GasBuddy, average national gas prices are expected to jump to their highest since 2014. GasBuddy reports that drivers across the U.S. will pay more than $1 billion more in fuel this holiday than last year.
That also means traffic will likely be a mess, but Google's handy Independence Day tool allows users to select Sacramento and view the best times to hit the roads.