Fourth of July is busy day for safety responders

Injuries, celebratory gunfire increase 911 calls

INDIANAPOLIS - The Fourth of July is a highly anticipated summer holiday, but it can also be dangerous and experts have tips to make your holiday safer.

The sale of fireworks fizzled last year because of the drought, but this year, weather and sales have been robust.

“Now that they realize it’s going to be wet enough to shoot off fireworks, they’re coming in and purchasing them again,” said Alan Baus with Jake’s World Class Fireworks.

2013 central Indiana Fireworks displays

At Jake’s World Class Fireworks last weekend, consumers purchased more than $70,000 worth of pyrotechnics.

Nationally, Americans will spend more than $1 billion on fireworks, but the holiday also brings dangers.

Fire and safety officials said that Independence Day always brings a spike of emergency calls and first aid.

Children under the age of 14 are most susceptible to burns and injuries.

In addition to keeping onlookers at a safe distance, firefighters said that a hose and bucket are must-have items for the holiday.

“You can have discharged fireworks, and they will not work for whatever reason. Instead of trying to relight that device, take that bucket and pour water on that device,” said Courtney Gordon, assistant Fire Marshal with the Indianapolis Fire Department.

Officials said 92 percent of the people injured in accidents are hurt by fireworks that were approved for sale by U.S. regulators.

Even a seemingly harmless sparkler can cause third-degree burns, experts warned.

Dr. Andrew Beckman has worked many Fourth of July holidays in the Wishard Memorial Hospital emergency room.

“A lot of hand injuries, some eye and face injuries. Probably half of what we see is related to hands, largely due to the lighting and ignition of fireworks,” Beckman said.

Experts said people should navigate the celebratory holiday by using common sense.

Other guidelines include never let little children play with fireworks, always have an adult present when using fireworks in a back yard, always watch fireworks displays from a safe distance and have a phone ready in case of an emergency. 

Police also said they receive dozens of extra calls every Independence Day for guns being shot off inside the city limits. It is not only dangerous, it is illegal.

"You know the old, 'What  goes up, must come down.' We've all seen the westerns where everybody's shooting up, but Hollywood uses blanks and these aren't blanks obviously. So they go up, they come down. And there are a number of injuries every year caused by celebratory gunfire on the Fourth of July. New Year's Eve, and a lot of the injuries are to the head and neck area which could be fatal," said Officer Michael Hewitt with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Discharging a firearm within the city limits is a misdemeanor, but the person who discharges the weapon is responsible for whatever damage or injury that bullet causes.

Follow Jack Rinehart on Twitter: @jackrinehart6

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