July 4th is just around the corner, and already celebrations are in full swing. Depending on your neighbors, they might even be in full swing at 2:00 in the morning. (Fingers crossed they didn’t get their hands on any illegal fireworks again this year, but… chances are they did.) For those whose neighborhood doesn’t already sound like a late-night rock concert, you’ll have to get your fill of fireworks in a more official, institutional setting. And honestly, this is for the best: at-home fireworks have a less-than-stellar track record where appendage-friendliness is concerned. (More on that in a bit.)
Fireworks are illegal across vast swaths of Southern California. Except for in a few select areas of Los Angeles and Ventura County, even so-called “Safe and Sane” fireworks are outlawed. The reasons for this ban are many, but the obvious one is that they are unsafe. The less obvious reason why you shouldn’t is because fireworks are a tremendous source of anxiety for children and pets (those puppy ears are sensitive, remember), and can be incredibly triggering to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The loud booms and flashes created in your attempt to celebrate can sound like real explosions thus turning your evening show of lights into a waking nightmare for those who once served our country bravely— the very country this Independence Day honors.
Independence Day should of course be a time to celebrate our country and the freedoms it provides— that’s why it exists. But, as always, it’s best to do it safely. Fireworks are fun, but unnecessarily dangerous when set off at home. It’s horrifying to read headlines about how emergency rooms are, quote, “gearing up” for the influx of injuries that fireworks will bring to their doorsteps. It’s heartbreaking to listen to a doctor talk about the gruesome injuries a young girl suffered after playing a game with her friend to see who could hold a firework the longest. Not only did she lose the game, but she was also badly injured.
Fireworks of all kinds, even those billed as being “Safe and Sane” — those that are neither projectiles or explosive in nature — all carry with them similar risks. They all can cause burns. But the kind that cause the most injuries are the illegal ones… the rockets. Some might not explode when they’re supposed to, some might veer off course, and some might completely misfire — exploding outwards without ever going up. The less legitimate you go, the more difficult it is to predict how these kinds of fireworks will behave. It’s like a parentally-sanctioned game of Russian Roulette.
The problem is that there exists a myth that runs rampant throughout our communities: fireworks manufactured for personal use can be used safely. This is categorically untrue, as the American Academy of Pediatrics points out: there is no safe way to use backyard fireworks.
Between mid-June and mid-July, 2016, emergency rooms saw more than 7,600 injuries. In 2017 that number nearly doubled to 12,900. On average, there are 7 deaths that can be attributed to fireworks; 2017 saw 8, including a four year old girl killed by metal shrapnel. Her father had lit an entire tube of sparklers in their backyard, and predictably it exploded out. About two-thirds of the fireworks related injuries and death that occur each year do so around the 4th of July. The most common outcome is burns to the hands and fingers.
A great number of people see sparklers as a safe alternative to the traditional explosive firework, but what they might not realize is that sparklers burn at a temperature anywhere from 1800 °F to 3000 °F. As a comparison, the Woolsey fire that scorched 152 square miles of land reached 2,100 °F — hot enough to turn the silica sitting in the soil beneath our feet into glass.
It’s another Woolsey or Thomas or Hill fire that has fire marshals so afraid this year. One stray spark from one firework could set the SoCal tinderbox ablaze. And if the fire is traced back to you, as it will be, it’s all but certain that you will be held criminally and civilly liable for the damages and injuries caused — accidental deaths included.
So please leave the beautiful lights up to the pyrotechnic professionals this year. It’s just not worth it.
Here are a few local 4th of July events around Ventura County where you can see professional fireworks!
- Calabasas: Calabasas High School, 9p.m
- Camarillo: Camarillo High School, 9 p.m.
- Channel Islands/ Oxnard: Channel Islands Harbor, 9 p.m.
- City of Ventura: Ventura College Athletic Field, 9 p.m.
- Moorpark: Arroyo Vista Park, July 3rd at 9 p.m.
- Ojai: Nordhoff High School, 9:15 p.m.
- Santa Paula: Harding Park, 9 p.m.
- Simi Valley: Rancho Santa Susana Community Park, 9:00 p.m.
- Fillmore: Fillmore Middle School, 9:15 p.m.
- Thousand Oaks: Hillcrest Center of the Arts, 9 p.m.
- Westlake: Westlake Village Golf Course Driving Range, 9:10 p.m.
Surviving Summer Should Not Be Hard
This was post #4 in our inaugural Summer Safety Series! If you missed them, check out our other posts in the series here:
#1. Hot Tips for Your Family, Part 1 [pools, trampolines, and food poisoning]
#2. Help! I’ve Created A Lobster! [sun safety]
#3. Heatstroke Isn’t Cool [heat safety]
Humans have been making it to the fall equinox for millennia untold — and your family can too. It just takes a bit of awareness. Knowing the dangers that come hand-in-hand with the summer months make it that much easier to prevent them. And fireworks-related injuries and deaths are just that: preventable. As are the wildfires they can spark, and the PTSD responses they can trigger. If you’re in one of the few areas of Southern California that doesn’t ban fireworks, please, please, please use them responsibly.
Summer vacation is not the time to lose a hand. Frankly, no time is.
This was the fourth post in The Howard Blau Law Summer Safety Series. Over the coming weeks we’ll be visiting a variety of topics relevant to your family and loved ones, from the bugs that bother, to playground injuries, to the dangers of hot cars — and more!
If you have a topic you’d like us to cover in this series, let us know in the comments or on Facebook.
Stay safe out there, and Happy Summer!
Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“There is No Safe Way to Use Backyard Fireworks.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
“Stay Safe This 4th of July.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
“Fireworks Facts: 8 Deaths, 12,900 Injuries in 2017; $900M Sales Expected as States Ease Curbs.” Wells Media Group. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
“Fireworks Information Center.” Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
“2016 Annual Fireworks Report.” Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved 28 June 2019.