October 26, 2021

Sparkling advice

Fire official: Pyrotechnics have risks

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Dustin Braman, 14, of Cortland, looks over a package of conventional sparklers Thursday at the fireworks stand at the Walmart parking lot in Cortlandville.

Most people remember being little kids waving a glowing wand around, watching as the colored flames and crackling noise slowly faded into the night, then dropping the stick and running to their parents to get another.

Although fireworks are illegal in the state, sparklers are not. However, they too come with risks and caution is advised, said William Knickerbocker, city deputy fire chief and director of city codes.

When using either the handheld or ground-based devices, Knickerbocker advises reading the instructions first. He said children should always be supervised when using them. People using sparklers should also keep a 25-foot distance from flammables and only light them in an open space away from trees and buildings, according to Knickerbocker.

Homeland Security and Emergency Services also recommends using protective eyewear, never lighting more than one sparkler at a time, never using them while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and never trying to relight malfunctioning devices.

The Cortland County Fire Advisory Board and the Fire Chiefs Association also deemed the storage of sparkler devices to be safe.

After celebrations are over, Knickerbocker recommends dousing all of the sparklers, duds included, in water and leaving them in either a metal bucket or pit overnight.

“These devices have been known to reconnect and ignite,” Knickerbocker said.

In 2017 there were an estimated 1,200 reported injuries due to sparklers nationwide, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission report. The report said the body parts most often injured were hands and fingers, followed by the head, face and ears.

In June 2015 the county Legislature voted to adopt a law allowing the sale of sparklers to anyone who is 18 years or older. The law legalized cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, wooden sparklers, snappers and party poppers. They can be sold from June 1 to July 5 and from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2.

Anyone with questions regarding sparkler safety can contact the city fire department at 607-756-5612.