Preventing Burns and Fires over Independence Day Weekend

Fire Prevention and Burn Safety over July 4th Weekend

Independence Day weekend is upon us and after a year pandemic restrictions a lot of us are ready to celebrate. But first responders are encouraging you to celebrate safely.

When it comes to July 4th, perhaps the biggest thing that comes to mind is fireworks. But, fireworks are illegal in the City of San Diego and the rest of San Diego County. Fireworks are only permitted for special community events. In addition to the threat of wildfires, fireworks are a potential source of serious injuries.

Even something like sparklers, which seem harmless, can burn as hot as 2,000 degrees. But the types of fireworks which don’t need to be lit can also be dangerous, especially for children.

“The friction devices – we call them the garbanzos or those snap-pops – they don’t even have to be lit, you just throw them on the ground and the friction of them striking the ground sets them off,” says Mark Alvarez, Firefighter/Paramedic and Bomb Technician with San Diego Fire-Resue. “But the problem is we’ve had children having a pocket full of them… if somebody were to accidentally hit them right there, that will set them off. So we’ve had kids have severe burns just from carrying those around in their pockets, since they don’t have to be lit to be activated.”

Illegal Fireworks
San Diego Firefighter/Paramedic Mark Alvarez explains the dangers of fireworks, which are illegal in San Diego County.

Photo: Eddie McCoven

Alvarez says another concern is although fireworks are illegal throughout San Diego County, they can sometimes still be purchased in stores, specifically national retailers whose buyers don’t pay attention to local laws.

San Diego Fire-Rescue encourages folks to leave the fireworks to the professionals by attending a community event. And if you have fireworks at home, the department has an amnesty program. You can go to any fire station and hand over the fireworks to a firefighter, no questions asked.

There are also a few alternatives to fireworks.

“Use glowsticks, use electric candles,” says Tessa Haviland, Marketing Director for The Burn Institute. “If the kids really want to get crazy and celebrate, get red, white and blue silly string where they can throw that at each other and have fun that way.”

Haviland said more than 13,000 people across the nation go to the emergency room every year because of fireworks related injuries, and about half of those persons are under the age of 15. She also said about 19,000 fires throughout the country are started each year because of fireworks.

Another way people will likely be celebrating is with food, especially barbecue. But barbecues can also be a source of wildfires and burn injuries if you’re not careful.

“Drag that barbecue into an open space, away from any structures, away from your eves, away from your sheds,” says Capt. Alma Lowry of San Diego Fire-Rescue. “Let that barbecue cool down though after its use, that’s super important as well.”

If you’re at the beach, Capt. Lowry says to barbecue away from groups of people, and you can use sand to extinguish the flames when you’re done. She also said to make sure to dump hot coals into the designated hot coal bins, which have a red flame on the side.

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