For Immediate Release: July 1, 2011

Even Legal Fireworks Pose Potential Dangers

Raleigh -- Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Wayne Goodwin warns North Carolinians about the dangers of consumer fireworks as they celebrate this holiday weekend.

"Many people falsely believe that because sparklers and similar fireworks are legal and readily available, they are safe," said Goodwin. "Too often, it's small consumer fireworks that start fires or cause serious burn injuries. I encourage North Carolinians to leave all fireworks to the professionals."

In 2010, about 8,600 people nationwide ended up in hospital emergency rooms with injuries involving legal and illegal fireworks, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Injuries from sparklers, bottle rockets and small firecrackers made up approximately 1,900 of those emergency room visits.

"Often, people underestimate how dangerous fireworks can be. Even a sparkler can cause third-degree burns," said Dr. James Holmes, director of the Burn Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Recovery from these burns can be a long, painful and, sometimes, lifelong process."

A simple, handheld sparkler can burn at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that into perspective, water boils at 212 degrees, a cake bakes at 350 degrees and wood burns at 575 degrees.

North Carolinians are encouraged to only attend public fireworks displays performed by trained and permitted professionals. After the display, do not pick up or touch leftover fireworks because they may still be active.

Last year in North Carolina, fire departments responded to more than 135 fireworks-related calls with an estimated total of $116,000 worth of property damage.

"With the current dry conditions in many parts of the state, it's easy for fires to start and spread," said Winston-Salem Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Owens. "We're asking for everyone's cooperation in preventing fires by avoiding the use of consumer fireworks."