Personal fireworks aren’t worth the risk

By By Anastasia Niedrich

By Anastasia Niedrich

On July 17, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. issued an emergency declaration requesting that local officials ban personal fireworks in their areas.

While the governor’s request will surely be unpopular with firework enthusiasts and retailers throughout the state, he has good reason for making the request. According to the governor’s spokeswoman, more than 600,000 acres of land have been scorched by fire — only some of which were caused by fireworks — and there have been more than 400 fires so far this year.

If you think Gov. Huntsman is off his rocker and going solo on this one, think again: Five states have already banned personal fireworks for the same reasons he’s citing.

Utahns would still be able to enjoy fireworks through shows held in safe venues, with emergency response personnel standing by to take care of any fires that might result, with much less risk of injury or death.

I enjoy watching fireworks shows as much as the next person. I go to Sugar House Park or the Stadium of Fire on the Fourth of July each year to get my fireworks fix, and that’s all I need. I have never seen a reason to endanger life and limb to light explosive, high-temperature incendiary fireworks on my own. I’ll leave the lighting-stuff-on-fire-and-blowing-it-up thing to the professionals who are trained to do so safely.

Fireworks cause thousands of injuries and several deaths each year.

According to statistics from the Fire Analysis and Research Division of the National Fire Protection Association, in 2005, the last year for which fireworks data is available, 10,800 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. Nearly half of those injured were children under age 15. Saddest of all, an estimated 14 people were killed directly by fireworks, or fires caused by fireworks, in one year.

In addition to the human cost, fireworks scare and injure animals — the oft forgotten demographic on fireworks-related holidays. The loud noises made when fireworks go off scare animals, which might run away or injure themselves when startled by the sounds.

The average cost to fight a fire in Utah without the assistance of helicopters is $450 per hour per fire truck with crew. If helicopters are needed and used, the cost to fight a fire can quickly run into the thousands. Fires not only drain taxpayer dollars, but also emergency response resources. If firefighters and paramedics weren’t so busy handling fires and injuries caused by fireworks, they’d be able to focus their skills and attention on naturally caused fires and save our state land, lives and money.

The potential costs of personal fireworks simply outweigh the benefits of watching a firework sparkle and pop for a short time.

Firefighters, fire prevention groups and medical professionals have been saying for years that personal fireworks ought to be banned.

We can prevent these unnecessary injuries, deaths and damages, and we should.

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