ST. PAUL — Minnesotans are being asked to find safer alternatives to fireworks for celebrating Independence Day to prevent injuries and help reduce the strain on first responders and emergency rooms, according to a Minnesota Department of Public Safety Fire Marshal Division news release.
Fire officials are bracing for an uptick in fireworks-related injuries following the canceling of public fireworks shows due to COVID-19.
“The past few months have been stressful for us all and we know people want to celebrate the Fourth of July. But fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable,” Minnesota State Fire Marshal Jim Smith said in the release. “We need Minnesotans to be safe, not sorry. Let’s not place further burdens on first responders and emergency room staff still working tirelessly to deal with COVID-19.”
Flying or exploding fireworks are illegal in Minnesota, but legal fireworks like sparklers — which can burn at up to 1,200 degrees — can be just as dangerous and cause injury.
“When adults put fun before safety, kids end up getting hurt,” Smith said. “Fireworks can cause devastating injuries in an instant.”
According to the release, last year in Minnesota, 59 people ended up in hospitals with fireworks injuries — 43 percent of them age 19 and under. Kids age 9 and under accounted for 16 percent of fireworks injuries in 2019, many of which were caused by sparklers.
The State Fire Marshal Division estimates many more injuries are likely unaccounted for because people treat them at home.
Hennepin Healthcare Burn Center's Dr. Ryan Fey said in the release that fireworks can cause devastating injuries not only due to burns but also other traumatic injuries from explosive force.
“This can result in severe permanent disability ranging from loss of hands (and) eyes, or large wounds,” Fey said. “Without question, these are preventable injuries.”
Wire or wood sparklers, smoke devices, snappers and drop-caps are legal in Minnesota while sky rockets, bottle rockets and roman candles are not.
The penalty for possession of less than 35 pounds of illegal fireworks is subject to a fine of up to $700 and 90 days in jail. Possession of over 35 pounds is subject to a fine of up to $3,000 and a year in jail.
To purchase fireworks in Minnesota, customers must be at least 18 years old.
Fire officials are also concerned about property damage.
According to the release, fireworks caused $190,351 in damage to homes and other structures in Minnesota last June and July.
There are few safe and legal spots to use fireworks in densely populated urban areas. State law only permits fireworks to be used on private property — not streets, alleys, parks or school or government property.
Instead of fireworks, the State Fire Marshal Division is encouraging people to decorate their driveways and sidewalks with colorful chalk.
Fire officials said that if you do use fireworks or participate in a neighborhood show, you should remember the following:
Use fireworks responsibly, especially around children. Kids mimic adult behavior.
If it flies or explodes, it’s illegal in Minnesota.
Fireworks can be disruptive to neighbors and frightening to pets.
Use fireworks outdoors, far from property and crowds.
Don’t let children or animals run through the area where fireworks are being set off. They could step on a spent firework that is still hot.
Sparklers can cause serious burns. Consider glow sticks or light-up wands as an alternative.
Use a long lighter meant for a gas grill to light fireworks.
Do not try to re-light a dud. Ever.
Soak used fireworks in water and leave them outside overnight before discarding into trash containers.