Dry heat and winds increase fire risk from fireworks, tips to stay safe for 4th of July

Published: Jul. 1, 2023 at 11:55 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The highlight of the Fourth of July is the bright lights in the sky, but without proper preparation, fireworks create a substantial fire risk and a health risk to those lighting them up.

Last year, over 10,000 people went to the ER due to firework-related injuries, with most injuries affecting people’s arms, fingers, and faces. Some of those injuries may have resulted in attempting to light a defective firework.

If you have a firework that doesn’t want to light, leave it alone.

Handling fireworks and other flames like bonfires and barbeques under the influence is also highly discouraged. Captain John Spanarella from Golder Ranch Fire District says with the holiday, folks drinking alcohol and handling these dangerous materials is a dangerous combination.

“Some people have a tendency to drink a little too much and make bad choices,” says Captain Spanarella. “There’s all kinds of bonfires and stuff like that that we end up responding to because they don’t think about the embers and the stuff that fly out from the fire and goes into the brush.”

Being careful with fires and fireworks is extremely important during the summer.

Captain Spanarella calculated the risk of a fire breaking out from fireworks, considering factors like heat and wind. The risk of a fire this coming holiday is dangerously high.

“On July 4th, midday until 8 o’clock that night, we have a 100 percent probability of ignition. So with a 7 to 10 southwest wind at 10 miles an hour, wherever those embers and those sparks carry to, you’re going to have 100 chance ignitions,” said Spanarella.

When lighting fireworks, ensure you’re at least 30 feet away from dry brush, grass, and other flammable materials, including buildings. Don’t let children handle fireworks, and keep a water source nearby to soak your fireworks after they’re lit.

Like a bonfire, open burning is also not allowed by the state. Any bonfire must have a screen over it to prevent embers from escaping. Otherwise, you must not start them.

A person who recklessly causes a fire faces a misdemeanor charge.

Fireworks should be stored in a cool and dry place. Avoid places with direct sunlight, especially where sunlight passes through glass, to prevent any sparks from starting.

Crew members at the Golder Ranch Fire District and other stations are trained to deal with fires caused by fireworks. Crews and trucks will be on standby at organized fireworks shows and at their stations to help keep everyone safe.

“We’re going to be aggressive,” said Spanarella, “but we’re going to be safely aggressive.”

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