Safety first on July 4

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 30, 2000

Sparks will fly July 4 and firecracker enthusiasts who plan their own shows should take heed – ignoring the rules can be dangerous.

Friday, June 30, 2000

Sparks will fly July 4 and firecracker enthusiasts who plan their own shows should take heed – ignoring the rules can be dangerous.

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Although the injury rate dropped more than 32 percent in the last six years, there were an estimated 8,500 people treated for fireworks-related injuries in 1999, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

"The firecrackers and bottle rockets are always our No. 1 seller," said Patricia Cooper, owner of Crazy Coo Fireworks in Wheelersburg.

"Bottle rockets, despite the name, shouldn’t be shot out of a bottle," Ms. Cooper said. "After repeated use (of rockets launched from a bottle), the side of the glass might break or, if the bottle rocket doesn’t launch properly, the bottle might explode."

Ms. Cooper recommends substituting the bottle with a white plastic PVC water pipe.

"White PVC pipes work best and you can get them at any hardware store at any length you want, from one foot to probably 12 feet," Ms. Cooper said.

Other sufficient substitutes for bottles include old water pipes, old mufflers or cinder blocks.

Skyrockets, which are similar to bottle rockets, should also be fired out of a PVC pipe (preferably three to four inches in length), and spectators are encouraged to back up about 50 feet, Ms. Cooper said.

"Our most popular sky rocket is the Flashing Thunder. The fuses for these skyrockets last about five or six seconds (before the unit launches), so by the time you get back, you’d have time to get 50 to 100 feet, depending on how fast you are," Ms. Cooper said.

When setting off firecrackers, Ms. Cooper warned that you shouldn’t hold the firecracker, light the fuse and then wait to throw it.

"Instead, set the firecracker down, light the fuse, then quickly get away," she said.

Another big seller at Crazy Coo is the reloadable shell, which is commonly referred to as a "cannon," Ms. Cooper said.

A one-and-one-half-inch mortar is loaded in the cannon and when the fuse is lit, it fires about 250 feet in the air and has a "big burst of color," she said.

"Only adults should be using these cannons and they should be used in an open space," she said. "You should also have buckets of water in case of an accidental fire," she added.

Ms. Cooper said all "repeaters" are also popular. One of the most-requested – the Kamikaze – is a 37-shot repeater. The Rain Forest is a 19-shot repeater.

"The Kamakaze shoots out balls of color that explode and the Rain Forest shoots and bursts," Crazy Coo employee Emily Bauman said.

Ms. Cooper and Ms. Bauman stressed that devices that launch, be it a rocket or just sparks, should be set flat or anchored properly to avoid potentially tipping over and shooting horizontally, which could result in injuries.

"There’s a long fuse behind these items, and the idea is to light and get away," Ms. Bauman said.

Other safety tips stressed by the CPSC include always reading and following labelled directions, buy from reliable sellers, never experiment or make your own fireworks, light only one firework at a time, never re-light a "dud" firework, dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water before throwing them away, never throw or point fireworks at other people, never carry fireworks in your pocket, never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers, always wear eye protection and stay away from illegal explosives.