The safest way to enjoy the Fourth of July

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Things are poppin' around the Golden Plains -- or at least they will be, soon.

Recent warm summer evenings have been punctuated by the bang and crackle of fireworks, despite the official first day of sales not arriving until Thursday.

Fireworks are allowed to be sold for only a week in McCook; plenty of time to enjoy them, but also plenty of time for them to become a problem.

The Nebraska Health and Human Services System points out that the state saw an increase in the number of fireworks injuries from 140 in 2005 to 147 in 2006. And, tragically, more than a third of them involved injuries to children under age 11, and nearly another third were to children and young adults ages 11-19.

And don't become complacent because fireworks are limited to something as innocuous as sparklers or Roman candles -- which cause most of the fireworks-related hospital emergency room visits between July 1 and July 5. Second-degree burns were the leading injury, followed by eye injuries, head and face injuries, finger and hand injuries. Illegal fireworks injuries decreased slightly.

Plus, don't overestimate young children's ability to handle fireworks -- they can lose control, endangering themselves and others.

When you do celebrate the Fourth, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Council on Fireworks Safety and the Nebraska Health and Human Services System offers the following tips:

* Stay away from illegal or homemade fireworks, which can be deadly.

* Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

* Fireworks are not toys. Even sparklers can cause burns.

* Have a garden hose and bucket filled with water handy in case of malfunction or fire.

* Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

* Never try to relight a "dud." Let it sit for 15 minutes, and then soak it in a bucket of water.

The safest way to celebrate the Fourth, of course, is to take in a public fireworks display like the one the McCook Optimists will present at the Red Willow County Fairgrounds that evening.

While it will be free, why not express your appreciation, and send the money you would have spent on home fireworks to: Fireworks Display, c?o McCook Optimists, P.O. Box 272, McCook NE?69001. Donations also will be accepted the evening of July 4 to folks seated in the grandstand or at the nearby Jaycees ball complex.

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