December 5, 2021

Fire, police officials urge fireworks safety during holiday

Photo illustration/MetroCreative

Cortland County sheriff’s Capt. Rob Derksen said parents who don’t adequately supervise their children using sparklers could face charges if the child is injured.

The light sparked in the cylinder, crackling noises could be heard and then there were sparks of red, white and blue. Oooh, ahhh, fireworks.

And occasionally burns, and sometimes partial amputation.

As families head into the Fourth of July weekend to enjoy cookouts, family and fireworks fire and police officials in Cortland County are reminding people that only certain fireworks are legal in the county and to be safe when using them.

Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms said every year his department receives many complaints about fireworks.

“I think a lot of people think we don’t do anything, but you can get charged if you’re caught with fireworks you shouldn’t have,” he said.

Charges related to fireworks can vary from misdemeanor for selling fire works to a felony for having been convicted of selling before and then selling again to someone under 18.

Cortland County sheriff’s Capt. Rob Derksen said parents who don’t adequately supervise their children using sparklers could face charges if the child is injured, including endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.


Fireworks safety tips

• Never allow young children to handle fireworks.
• Older children should use them only under close adult supervision.
• Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
• Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
• Never hold a lighted firework in your hands.
• Never light them indoors.
• Use them away from people, houses and flammable material.
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Light only one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting.
• Never ignite devices in a container.
• Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
• Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
• Keep a bucket of water nearby to extinguish fireworks that don’t go off or in case of fire.
• Never use illegal fireworks.

— SOURCE: National Safety Council


The county allows only sparkling devices — “ground-based or hand-held devices that produce a shower of white, gold or colored sparks as their primary pyrotechnic effect,” the county law states.

The sparkling device may also have other effects like a crackling noise. People can also use novelty items like party poppers or snappers, according to the law.

However, Helms said fireworks can be a nuisance to neighbors and pets, so people should remember to keep their neighbors in mind when they light them. He also said large fireworks are not only illegal but should be left up to professionals.

“They (fireworks) can beautiful in the right circumstance, but one goes off in your hand or your face it isn’t so beautiful,” Helms said.

“We have seen significant injuries,” Tammy Aiken, director of Critical Care and Emergency Services at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center.

She said that included partial amputations. Aiken also said many people think sparklers aren’t dangerous, but they are wrong.

“They can cause serious burns, especially the hot metal tip,” she said.

The tip of a sparkler burns at approximately 1,200 degrees, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The association said sparklers cause roughly 25% of all fireworkrelated emergency room visits, the most of any type of firework-like device.

Aiken said many of the injuries the hospital sees are with pre-teen and teenage kids, although she doesn’t track specific numbers.

There were an estimated 12,900 firework-related injuries in 2017 in America, with children under 15 accounting for 36% of the injuries, according to a 2018 reports from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Because Guthrie Cortland is not a pediatric hospital, Aiken said a lot of the time they have to send kids to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital or to the Clark Burn Treatment Center at Upstate University Hospital, both in Syracuse, to be treated.

Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. said parents should monitor children when they have sparklers.

“Everyone likes fireworks, they’re great to watch, but we have to remember to follow the directions, watch kids and use them how they’re supposed to be used,” he said.