Drought Conditions Increase Fire Risks As July Fourth Approaches
As drought conditions worsen in Missouri, the Division of Fire Safety is urging Missourians to put fireworks safety first as they prepare for Independence Day celebrations.
Over the last three months, the percentage of Missouri considered abnormally dry or in some state of drought has grown from 7.5% to 93.3%, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released June 22.
“Public fireworks displays offer the best sights and are the safest, and this year the fire risk posed by fireworks has increased because of drought conditions in much of Missouri,” State Fire Marshal Tim Bean said. “The risk that sparks from fireworks could lead to grass and natural cover fires is elevated this year. These fires can spread rapidly and pose risks to structures as well. We urge everyone to consider local conditions and use extreme caution if they choose to use consumer fireworks.”
Fireworks also pose a risk of injury. According to data collected by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, in 2022, 324 people in Missouri sought hospital care related to fireworks; 292 of those people were treated in emergency rooms and released; 32 people were admitted to the hospital.
More than 77% of those fireworks injuries occurred in the three-week period leading up to and following Independence Day (June 21 to July 11, 2022). During that period, 252 people with fireworks injuries sought hospital treatment in emergency rooms or were admitted for inpatient care.
Missourians who choose to use consumer fireworks should follow these safety tips:
· Confirm fireworks are legal where you live; only purchase fireworks from licensed retailers.
· Only use fireworks in a large open space that is clear of flammable materials. Do not light fireworks in areas where a spark could ignite dry grass, leaves of other flammable materials.
· Always have a garden hose or a bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.
· Always keep young children away from fireworks; if teens are permitted to handle fireworks, they should be closely supervised by an adult; always wear eye protection.
· Only light fireworks one at a time; never try to re-light fireworks that have malfunctioned
· Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and leaving them in a trash can.
· Never shoot fireworks off from a glass jar or container.
· Never use fireworks while consuming alcohol.
· Never store fireworks from season to season.
Fireworks sales at licensed seasonal retailers are legal in Missouri from June 20 to July 10. Through June 21, the Division of Fire Safety had issued 1,127 permits to seasonal retailers. DFS conducts safety inspections at fireworks retailers, including checking to make sure they sell only legally-permitted consumer fireworks, that they have at least two exits, are equipped with fire extinguishers, and that fireworks tents have been treated with fire retardant chemicals.
According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission analysis, across the nation, at least nine people died from non-occupational fireworks incidents in 2021.
About 11,500 people were in incidents involving fireworks across the U.S. in 2021.
Across the nation, July 4th is not only the busiest day of the year for fireworks, it’s the busiest day of the year for fires. About 40 percent of Independence Day structure fires are the result of fireworks, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Across the U.S. in 2018, fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires and 17,100 outside and other types of fires. These fires caused five deaths and $105 million in direct property damage, according to NFPA. About 250 people go to emergency rooms each day with fireworks-related injuries in the 30 days around July 4th.
Sparklers are a good example of how people underestimate the danger of fireworks. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. They can quickly ignite clothing and leave young children with severe burns. According to the NFPA, sparklers account for more than 25 percent of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries.
For questions or concerns about firework safety, firework rules, or firework dealers can contact the Division of Fire Safety at (573) 751-2930. More fireworks safety tips are available here.