Morning-glory sparkler

A "morning glory" style sparkler emits tiny star-like (and very hot) particles.

Stay safe on the 4th of July

{child_byline}By Ellen Morris Bishop

The Wallowa County Chieftain{/child_byline}

4th of July and other fireworks—mostly the ones you buy at a local stand and plan to have fun with at home—ignite an average of 18,500 fires, and cause thousands of injuries each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. We need only consider the devastating, 50,000-acre Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge last year, started by a teen tossing fireworks into a canyon, to understand that fireworks are not toys.

In 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated more than 12,000 people for fire-works-related injuries. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 36% of the injuries. Injuries to the eyes are common in both adults and children.

Most organizations concerned with safety, including the National Safety Council, recommend that you celebrate the 4th at a professionally run show where the fireworks are more spectacular, and the whole family can ooooh and aaaaaah from a safe distance. Shake the Lake is a perfect place to celebrate the 4th.

Sparklers seem a safe and fun way for smaller children to celebrate. But these magnesium mini-flares burn at temperatures up to 2000 degrees F—the same temperature as the hottest of basalt lava flows. To put this in perspective, glass melts at a mere 900 degrees F. and that fire in your woodstove burns at around 600 degrees F.

If you plan to take the risks of setting off your own fireworks anyway, here are some common-sense rules for safety from the National Safety Council and Prevention Magazine.

• Keep pets inside and in a place where they feel safe. Many dogs react to the explosive sounds of fireworks with almost mortal fear. Provide a safe place for them. Better yet, consider the fear you may instill in your pets, and those of neighbors, as well as wildlife, and just go to Shake the Lake.

• Don’t let young children handle fireworks, including sparklers.

• Wear safety glasses.

• Don’t light a firework in your hand.

• Clear the area where you are going to ignite fireworks. There should be nothing flammable—dry grass, shrubs, trees or buildings--anyplace that fireworks’ hot materials may burn or fall.

• Keep buckets of water and a live hose handy to douse any fire that may start.

• Stay away from/don’t use M-class fireworks, including M-80s and M-100s. They are dangerous, unpredictable and powerful. They are also illegal.

• Never re-light a “dud” firework. Sometimes the fuse on a firework may be slower than you expect. If you go back to “relight it” you may arrive just as it goes off—at a very close range.

• When you are done, douse all fireworks devices with water, and as a precaution, wash down the area where you’ve been setting off the fireworks. This will help avoid late-night surprises, trash fires, and unwanted visits from your local fire department volunteers.

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