By Rod Rose
Assistant Managing Editor
Boone County —
Every year, dozens of Americans celebrate the Fourth of July not with a bang, but a scream.
The misuse of “consumer fireworks” injured 40 people in 2011, the National Fire Protection Association said. Fireworks were the source of about 17,800 fires that caused more than $32 million in damage, the NFPA said.
Drought conditions last year caused local fire departments to issue bans on fireworks, and the cancellation of dozens of fireworks displays, including Lebanon’s, across Indiana.
There’s no drought this year, but the dangers of mishandling fireworks remain, Lebanon Fire Chief Jason Lee said.
“Obviously, you should use fireworks only in a clear, open area, and keep your audience a safe distance away,” he said. Fireworks may be used only on the user’s property, on private property where the owner has given permission, or at sites designated by the state of Indiana.
“The street is not an approved place for fireworks,” Lee said.
“Always use caution when it’s windy,” he said. A water supply of some kind should be kept nearby.
“Don’t tape fireworks together, and don’t alter them,” Lee said. “That risks burns — and missing digits.”
Only fireworks labeled “1.4G” fireworks, such as bottle rockets or firecrackers, or “section 8(a)” items such as sparklers, cone fountains and ground spinners, can be sold to the public, Lee said. Consumer fireworks packages should have a label declaring them 1.4G products, he said.
Sparklers burn at 1,400 to 1,800 degrees, Lee said. “It doesn’t take long to get one heck of a phosphorus burn if you’re not careful,” he said.
While sparklers are often considered an appropriate firework for children, they can be as dangerous as those devices that use black powder.
Sparklers, fountains and similar “novelty fireworks” alone accounted for 34 percent of the emergency room fireworks injuries in 2011, according to the NFPA. One in four fireworks injuries were to children under age 15.
Only people 18 and older may light fireworks, and children may use them only if supervised by someone 18 or older.
Users of fireworks are responsible for any damage that might be caused, such as if a bottle rocket launched from a driveway sets fire to a neighbor’s garage, Lee said.
Penalties for the improper use of fireworks range from a class A misdemeanor — for damaging someone’s property — to a class C felony, if that misuse “recklessly, knowingly or intentionally” kills someone.
Fireworks may be set off only between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., except on the Fourth of July, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve, when the deadline is midnight.