Lighting fireworks in NJ? It may not be worth the risk
New Jersey legalized the least extreme fireworks a little more than a year ago. Still, plenty of the big guns will make their way into the Garden State and get ignited by a bunch of amateurs around the July 4 holiday.
Folks who've seen the consequences are begging you to be careful — for the sake of your health and for the sake of your property.
More fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, and fireworks account for more than 50 percent of them.
"That's mostly due to sparks landing on rooftops, or a semi-lit firework that doesn't quite go out still gets wedged between buildings," said David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.
Kurasz said New Jersey is no stranger to structure fires caused by fireworks. Even the smallest devices can cause major issues.
"Sometimes you light a sparkler, you put it in your 6-year-old's hand, and all of a sudden they get scared and toss it," he said.
In June 2017, then-Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law legalizing sparklers and other non-aerial fireworks. They're hard to miss at New Jersey supermarkets and big box stores.
Between June 18 and July 18 of 2016, an estimated 11,000 fireworks-related injuries required an emergency room visit, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Injuries to the eyes and face represented more than a third of those injuries.
Joseph Calderone, of Better Vision New Jersey, has seen his share of injuries related to the devices that are packed with combustible chemicals.
"It's more prevalent than people realize," he said. "People tend to be nonchalant when maybe nonchalant isn't appropriate."
The most innocent-seeming of fireworks, sparklers, can reach a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, Calderone said.
"How many people wear safety goggles when they light a sparkler?" he asked.
According to Calderone, the shock of a firework blow can cause a "ruptured globe." Short of that, there are chemical and thermal injuries. Any of these can cause permanently reduced vision.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers perhaps the smartest tip to avoid injury this holiday — attend a professional fireworks display, instead of making one yourself.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.