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Injuries, fires are sad scourges of 4th festivities

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on June 30, 2011 at 6:36 pm with 5 Comments »
June 30, 2011 5:01 pm

Charlene Peyton stands by her burned house in the Gig Harbor area. Errant fireworks ignited it while she was away last July 4. (Peter Haley / Staff photographer)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

You don’t need a calendar to know that the Fourth of July is soon upon us.

Fireworks stands have popped up like weeds all over the South Sound, and some customers are indulging in premature “celebration” – even though it’s illegal altogether in some cities and restricted in most others as to which kind of fireworks can be shot off and when.

For some folks, the Fourth – and several days before and after – is an opportunity to indulge their inner pyromaniac under the guise of being patriotic Americans. They gleefully plop down a wad of cash at fireworks stands for goods that can blow off a finger or two, put out an eye or set the neighbor’s roof on fire.

For the rest of us, though, the Fourth often means disturbed nights, frazzled nerves, fear of accidental fire, and pets that might need to be medicated and restrained so they don’t run away  in fright. Some people dare not leave town if the weather is dry, but instead stand ready with hoses in case the neighbor’s fireworks display gets out of hand.

According to the state fire marshal, there were 575 fires, injuries and other fireworks-related incidents last year in this state. That included the Gig Harbor-area home of retired music teacher Charlene Peyton. It was a total loss, thanks to her neighbors’ illegal July 4 fireworks.

Fifty children under the age of 14 were among the injured. Nationally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports, about 8,600 Americans went to hospital emergency rooms last year due to injuries from legal and illegal fireworks; 40 percent of them were children 14 and younger. Three people died.

Even supposedly “safe and sane” fireworks like sparklers can be dangerous. They burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, says the CPSC – hot enough to melt some metals, let alone a young child’s flesh.

Unfortunately, this year’s July 4 likely will result in its share of casualties. In a press release, the American Pyrotechnics Association crows that “backyard fireworks have never been more popular or in more demand.” It points with pride to the fact that “Since 2000, there has been an ongoing proliferation of state and local legislation to relax consumer fireworks laws and life fireworks prohibitions.”

One reason it cites is “the sluggish economy during the past several years and the need for local and state governments to creatively find ways to increase revenues.”

We haven’t heard of any local governments in Washington trying to raise revenue by relaxing restrictions on fireworks – thus risking the safety of their citizens. And we hope we never do. In fact, this year Steilacoom is joining the cities of Tacoma, Ruston, Fircrest, Lacey, Federal Way and Des Moines in banning personal fireworks. Those cities are to be applauded.

Have a happy – and safe – Fourth of July. And please leave the fireworks displays to the experts.

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. It’s just sad. Growing up in the 80’s as a child, my PARENTS would light the fireworks while we kids would watch. Eventually I grew old enough to hang out with friends and we’d light them off ourselves and have a good time.

    But now indeed it is like people just become addicted to them like some drug and lose all control. Dry grass = quick fires. Bottle rockets at 3am in the days surrounding the 4th hitting buildings is commonplace every year now. I’m not so much of a curmudgeon – I’m too young to be one – but I guess I appreciate common sense and a basic communal empathy in being smart and also knowing how you’re affecting those around you with your actions, and actually caring about it. I don’t know about these days now.

    People are addicted to fast things, loose laws, and basically more and more it seems being able to do whatever the hell they want, when they want, where they want, everybody be darned. Self-regulation is a basic in a civilized society – you know what’s right and you know what’s wrong. But it seems like things have been skewed so much in the past decade.

    Whereas in the late 90’s we late teens back then were seen more as adults and accepted that responsibility, now it’s like people that are in their 20’s are seen as “kids” and they don’t seem to give a darn that maybe their actions have reactions and consequences, so I guess it is an unfortunate necessary thing to treat fools in their 20’s as kids indeed and right the laws stricter and try and keep the firecrackers out of their hands, since they haven’t grown up enough to know how to use them responsibly. Our society is digressing in terms of how long it’s taking people to mature.

  2. I’ve been around local government a long time. Not once have I ever heard of a local government relaxing fireworks rules to bring in revenue. If anything, the direction has been towards prohibition. My suspicion is that they made it up.

  3. nwcolorist says:

    Your editorial is a distortion of what really happens on the the Fourth. Out of millions of people safely shooting off fireworks this Fourth of July, 99.9% will do so safely and responsibly. A miniscule fraction will cause problems.

    There is something perverse about people who would wish to destroy the enjoyment of so many others for a few days every year. It is sad to think how many children will never know the excitement and wonder of setting off fireworks that many of us experienced in our youth.

    The answer is to vigorously prosecute the abusers, not penalize the law abiding citizens.


  4. tomwa007 says:

    The city of Tacoma is poised to pay officers $60,000 in enforcement and overtime where they will write 20 or less $259 tickets.

    No one in the city will be safer but city taxpayers will be deeper in debt.

  5. Omega6234 says:

    about 9000 people are injured ever year by firewroks.
    about 9346 people are injured every year by toothpicks.
    nearly 4000 people are injured by tea pots every year.

    Give me a break… fireworks are fun and a blast… media blows this out of whack. Must be a 75 year old woman with 13 cats writing the story.

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