RI Fire Academy demonstrates dangers of illegal fireworks

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Fourth of July is just days away — and though fireworks are a festive part of the holiday, purchasing illegal ones can lead to jail time or bodily injury.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014 11 people were killed and more 10,000 were injured by fireworks.

Tuesday at the Rhode Island Fire Academy, fire officials showed Eyewitness News a graphic demonstration of the damage illegal fireworks can do.

The presentation included mannequins losing their limbs and exploding watermelons. It may seem silly — but according to leaders at the academy, each scenario was based on a real life accident that happened in past years.

“If it shoots in the air or explodes like you just saw, those fireworks are illegal in Rhode Island,” said RI State Fire Marshal Jack Chartier

According to Chartier, a good amount of injuries or deaths involve children.

“The amazing part about it is, that most of the fireworks injuries are 40-percent children under the age of 16 — with the highest age group being under the age of four.”

And according to the statistics, chances are everyone knows someone who purchases illegal fireworks. Fire officials say that for the sake of safety, those people should be reported to the police.

“If you have enough product that you rise to a felony, you are looking at jail time and that would be up to a judge,” Chartier said.

But don’t be fooled — legal fireworks can be just as dangerous as the illegal ones.

Call 12 For Action learned that sparklers burn hotter than wood in a fireplace, which is about 575 degrees.

Sparklers, according to Chartier, can burn at 1,200 degrees. “It’s capable of injuring a child with third degree burns with just a very, very shot amount of contact because of the high temperature,” he said. “Hands, eyes, face, anywhere. The thing about a sparkler, if a child grabs it in their hand it stays in their hands, and then you’re off to the  hospital with some pretty serious damage.”

Though legal fireworks are fun, safety officials say common sense is important.

To prevent burns or injuries:

  • Don’t wear loose fit clothing if lighting off fireworks
  • If a device does not go off, don’t stand over it to investigate
  • Use water to extinguish properly
  • If sparks get in someone’s eye, make sure they don’t rub it because more damage could be done

Officials are also warning of fake fireworks. When purchasing from a vendor, make sure the box has a warning label — if not, they might be fake and could malfunction or explode in your hand.

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