With Independence Day events cancelled and at-home firework displays the norm, injuries and fatalities increased in 2020.
Injuries and deaths from fireworks have been on the rise during the pandemic, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There is speculation that the increase is a result of Independence Day celebration cancellations.
The CPSC reported, “Eighteen people died in 2020 after episodes that involved fireworks, compared with 12 people the previous year (a 50 percent increase). About 15,600 people went to emergency rooms because of fireworks injuries in 2020, a 56 percent increase from the 10,000 injured in 2019. The increase came at a time when many hospitals across the country were overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.”
Moreover, the report indicated, “About 66 percent of the fireworks-related injuries last year occurred from June 21 to July 21, and the two leading sources for the injuries year-round were firecrackers and sparklers.”
Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the CPSC, said, “It was difficult to pinpoint an exact reason for the increase,” but added, “Many cities canceled July 4 public fireworks displays during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this may have spurred consumers to use fireworks in their own backyards.” Shooting off fireworks from home is much more dangerous.
“Los Angeles was among the cities that canceled all fireworks shows last year, causing some residents to put on their own amateur, and more dangerous, shows,” said Erik Scott, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department. “On July 4 alone, the city received 429 more emergency calls than it would on an average day, he said, and many involved fireworks. The kids are the ones that we see that are frequently injured, statistically.”
Children under 14 years old accounted for “24 percent of all fireworks-related injuries in the country from June 21 through July 21, 2020,” according to the report, while those “20 to 24 years old were involved in roughly 50 episodes in 2019 but about 400 in 2020, a 700 percent increase.”
The report noted that of the 18 people who died, eight had used drugs or alcohol. One death happened Ohio and involved a 63-year-old man who was fatally struck in the head by fireworks. A New Jersey man passed away after being hit in the neck.
“It was an extremely busy day,” remembers Sgt. Greg Nolte of the Mount Healthy Police Department. “We definitely got some calls last year. And what people get worried about is fireworks on their house, on their property, on their trees.”
“In Las Vegas, there were so many 911 calls last year about fireworks on July 4 that it temporarily crashed the city’s emergency dispatch system,” said Tim Szymanski of the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue team. “You could go anywhere in the city and just stand on a hill someplace, and you could see all the people using the fireworks. I think everybody was confined to a hole because of the pandemic, but they wanted to do something, so they got their fireworks.”
Now that many of the Independence Day events are back this year, hopefully these numbers will decrease.
“We are hoping since public fireworks displays are on again this year as the Covid-19 pandemic eases, people will take advantage of those,” Davis said. “That’s the safest way to watch fireworks.”