KNPR

Fire Officials Concerned Over Uptick In Firework Sales

ap_20181755727568.jpg

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Various fireworks are offered for sale at Wild Willy's Fireworks Tent in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 29, 2020.

The Fourth of July is this Saturday and Nevadans are already lining up to buy fireworks. 

  

With professional firework shows being canceled due to COVID-19, firefighters are expecting an uptick in firework sales and use. And that means a lot more worry about fires—not just accidental wildfire, but homes going up in flames.   

  

Tim Szymanski is the public information officer for Las Vegas Fire and Rescue. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that the Fourth of July is the busiest day of the year for fire and police departments.

Support comes from

He said fire calls typically go up 50 to 75 percent on the holiday. 911 lines get so clogged that dispatchers don't use the radio to give information about fires, instead fire units have computers that tell them where to go next.

As for police, the largest volume of calls is for people with a gun. Szymanski says people will shoot their guns in the air to celebrate and neighbors will see them and call the police.

Safe and sane fireworks are the only fireworks allowed in Clark County, but people still buy illegal fireworks across county lines. 

The fine for using illegal fireworks is $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second. Szymanski says law enforcement doesn't write a lot of citations for illegal fireworks each year mostly because it takes such a long time to process the citation.

He does warn of a much bigger concern than getting cited.

“If you damage somebody else’s property, if you catch your neighbor's house on fire because you’re doing fireworks, those people’s insurance company is going to fix up their house, but in the process, their lawyers are going to come after you and they’re going to sue you for the damages,” he said.

Szymanski said he has seen thousands of dollars in damage done to homes by fireworks. 

One of the biggest problems, he said, is people don't properly dispose of fireworks. The city fire department responded to a house fire just the other day after the residents put spent fireworks into a trash can and the trash started on fire.

“That is one of the leading causes of fires that we have on the 4th and 5th of July is people not soaking their used or spent fireworks in water," he said, "They can be very hot, almost too hot to the touch and you need to soak them in a bucket of water before you put them in a trash can or it's going to catch your house on fire.”

Fireworks are only legal in the City of Las Vegas and Clark County between June 28 and midnight on July 5. Calls for illegal fireworks are treated as a noise complaint not an emergency. 

“We’re going to be going on fire calls because they could be extending to homes. Trees catch on fire, the embers drop down, they catch the house on fire. In some cases, we literally pull people out of houses on the Fourth of July,” Szymanski said.

Besides police and firefighters, the burn unit at University Medical Center is at its busiest on Independence Day, Szymanski said.

He said there can between 30 and 40 people waiting to see a doctor. The most common injuries are burns to the hands, legs and eyes, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Burns are the most painful injury a person can suffer, Szymanski said. There are medications to ease the pain but it is difficult to block it all together and it can take a long time to recover.

He pointed to the case of a young girl who was hit by a rocket.

“A rocket went sideways, instead of going up into the air, and shot into her back and she was in the burn unit for almost three months because of illegal fireworks being used by a whole neighborhood,” he said.

RESOURCES:

ispyfireworks.com

Clark County Fireworks Safety

City of Las Vegas Fireworks Safety

Guests

Tim Szymanski, public information officer, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue

 

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.