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Nashua;47.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nfew.png;2014-10-21 01:10:17
Sunday, June 29, 2014

NH officials urge fireworks safety as July 4 approaches

If the fact that you could be charged with offenses that could rise to the level of a misdemeanor or even higher isn’t enough to persuade you to forgo the backyard-party fireworks display this Fourth of July, safety officials say perhaps the inherent danger of burning or maiming a friend or family member will sway your decision.

That’s the crux of the message that folks in the fire prevention, law enforcement and emergency medical responder communities local and statewide strive to get across at this time of year. It’s a sort of “don’t set off illegal fireworks, but if you choose to do so, know you’re breaking the law and do everything possible to keep everyone safe” appeal. ...

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If the fact that you could be charged with offenses that could rise to the level of a misdemeanor or even higher isn’t enough to persuade you to forgo the backyard-party fireworks display this Fourth of July, safety officials say perhaps the inherent danger of burning or maiming a friend or family member will sway your decision.

That’s the crux of the message that folks in the fire prevention, law enforcement and emergency medical responder communities local and statewide strive to get across at this time of year. It’s a sort of “don’t set off illegal fireworks, but if you choose to do so, know you’re breaking the law and do everything possible to keep everyone safe” appeal.

What can get confusing is exactly what kinds of fireworks are illegal, what types are considered permissible and how ordinances and laws differ from city to city and town to town.

Localities with no specific ordinances or laws typically fall under state guidelines, which hold that some types of fireworks are legal, or permissible, meaning they “have been made legal for sale, possession and use … and can be purchased in the state’s licensed retail stores,” according to the Celebrate Safely Campaign conducted by the office of State Fire Marshal Bill Degnan.

But the user must also abide by laws and ordinances of the city or town in which they plan to use the fireworks. In Nashua, for instance, city ordinance prohibits the sale, purchase or use of any type of fireworks. The same is true in Manchester and a dozen or so towns.

Others, such as Hudson, prohibit the use of fireworks except by permit. But to obtain a permit, the applicant must already have federal and state permits and be licensed by the state, conditions that all but ensure only professionals will be granted permits.

Hudson fire inspector Joe Triolo cited a town code article that prohibits the “purchase, possession, sale, use or display of Class B or Class C fireworks” without a fire department-issued permit.

Class B fireworks, formerly called “special fireworks,” describe the large, professional types. Class C, or “small consumer” fireworks, include aerial cakes, roman candles, spinners, snappers, wheels and sparklers.

Detailed information, with a number of links to specific descriptions of fireworks, laws and ordinances, can be found at www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/fire
safety/special-operations/fireworks.

Just how dangerous consumer fireworks can be, even when handled by careful, responsible individuals, was illustrated on July 3, 2012, when hundreds of dollars’ worth of fireworks ignited accidentally on the deck of a Pelham home.

A dozen people from two families were injured, including children, some of whom continue to recover physically and emotionally.

The owners of the Dodge Road home were known for their July 4 fireworks parties, attended by scores of holiday revelers, including many neighbors. Witnesses said the hosts were always careful when setting up and lighting off the fireworks, which prompted fire officials and investigators to underscore the fact that fireworks accidents aren’t always caused by carelessness or irresponsible people.

Thousands of Americans suffer fireworks-related injuries, ranging from minor burns to serious trauma such as disfigurement or loss of fingers, hands and eyes, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Last year, eight people died and 11,400 were hurt by fireworks nationally. Injuries were up significantly over 2012, when about 8,700 injures were reported, according to the CPSC.

Sparklers and rockets, often viewed as the safest of consumer fireworks, accounted for more than 40 percent of injuries reported in 2013. The commission’s data also shows that on average, roughly 200 people with fireworks injuries go to the emergency room every day in the two weeks before and two weeks after July 4.

Locally, the Nashua Office of Emergency Management warned in a recent Facebook post that sparklers, despite their long-standing reputation as one of the safest types of fireworks, actually burn hotter than the amount of heat needed to melt glass.

They’re also twice as hot as burning wood, and a remarkable five times hotter than boiling water, according to an Office of Emergency Management graph.

As for fireworks injuries in general, injuries to hands and fingers, not surprisingly, are the most common, totaling 36 percent of all injuries, according to CPSC statistics. Next are injuries to the head, face and ears, 22 percent, followed by eyes, 16 percent.

Men are statistically more likely to be hurt by consumer fireworks, 57-43 percent, while females are injured more often at public displays than home-based ones.

Stats also show that children are the most common victims; 40 percent of reported injuries are to kids age 14 and younger. Fourteen percent are age 4 or younger.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.