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Firework Safety

This article from CBS News reflects the extreme power and danger of fireworks and the importance of firework safety.

Kathleen Staples says she wishes she could’ve been there to protect her 22-year-old son, Devon, on the night of the Fourth of July.

Devon Staples had been drinking with friends Saturday evening and setting off fireworks, when Maine State Police say he put a mortar on his head and lit it. It exploded, killing Devon instantly.

But Kathleen says her son would never have placed the firecracker on his head if he thought it was a live explosive.

“That would’ve been suicide. I can’t see a happy boy wanting to destroy himself,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “He believed it was a dud, he stuck it over his head and he was goofing off.”

Kathleen admits her son had been drinking. She hopes his death serves as a reminder that alcohol and fireworks just don’t mix.

“I spent 22 years keeping that boy safe,” she said. “Do not drink, you need to have a designated sober person that is making life and death decisions with these things.”

She wants Devon to be remembered as a young man who loved to bring joy to others.

Staples previously worked at Disney World as “Beauty and the Beast” character Gaston.

“The kid, out of hundreds of people, ended up working for Disney World as Gaston and Goofy. He was talented and bright,” Kathleen said.

Federal explosives regulations promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) define two general categories of fireworks sold in the United States: “display fireworks” and “consumer fireworks.”

Display fireworks are the large fireworks used in shows, generally under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnical. The regulations at 27 CFR, Part 555, require that any person engaging in the business of importing, manufacturing, dealing in, or otherwise receiving display fireworks must first obtain a Federal explosives license or permit from ATF for the specific activity.

Consumer fireworks are the small fireworks usually sold at stands around the Fourth of July holiday. ATF does not regulate the importation, distribution, or storage of completed consumer fireworks, but other Federal, State, and local agencies do regulate these items to a varying degree. Because consumer fireworks contain pyrotechnic compositions classified by ATF as explosive materials, the manufacturing of consumer fireworks requires a Federal explosives license from ATF.

16 CFR 1500.17(a)(3) limits aerial fireworks devices to 130 mg (2 grains) of pyrotechnic composition intended to product an audible effect. Aerial devices, which are devices that are launched into the air and then function, that have an audible effect larger than 130mg are banned fireworks devices. This limit applies to many types of fireworks, including but not limited to: rockets; aerial bombs, and firecrackers or other types of reports included in aerial devices such as multi-tube shells and aerial rockets. Kits and components intended to produce any of these are also subject to this limit.

Thus, any single, legal, manufactured firework may contain as much as 130 mg of explosive.  So how much damage or injury can be caused by this much explosive?  The family of Devon Staples will tell you it is enough to kill a grown man.  It is enough explosive to cause the loss of fingers or an eye.  130 mg of explosive in a firecracker can cause a severe burn and permanent scar.  In other words, legal firecrackers are very dangerous, even deadly.  So here are some safety tips the most important of which are (1) fireworks are for adults and teens supervised by adults and (2) never consume alcohol or dugs before or while using fireworks.  In addition:

  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • A responsible adult SHOULD supervise all firework activities.  Never give fireworks to children.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.  Save your alcohol for after the show.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Use fireworks OUTDOORS in a clear area; away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Never carry fireworks in your POCKET or shoot them into METAL or GLASS containers.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  • FAA regulations PROHIBIT the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
  • Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.  Source: The National Fireworks Safety Council

Remember: The July 4th holiday is the busiest day of the year for firefighters and emergency rooms.  This fact alone demonstrates the extreme danger associated with fireworks.  Be safe.

But not all fireworks are legal and limited to 130 mg of slow explosives.  The most publicized of these illegal fireworks is the so-called M-80.  But it is far from the only illegal firework sold each July 4th to unsuspecting consumers.  Each year there are hundreds of reports of illegal fireworks and injuries caused by illegal fireworks.  In some instances, the firework is so powerful that no pre-caution, save not buying the firework, would have prevented injury or death. Every instance in which a person is killed or seriously injured by a firework must be promptly and professionally investigated.  The family of the victim can not allow time to pass or rely on the authorities to determine whether the used firework was legal of illegal. Rather, every victim and their family must have the input of a reliable expert to determine if the injury or death was caused by someone other than the victim.  An experienced, reputable and resourced injury attorney can launch an immediate investigation using the top experts.  The Attorneys at Fisher Injury Lawyers are experienced, reputable and proven successful.  We care deeply about our clients and work tirelessly on their cases and claims.  Call us any time.


Bryan Fisher

Bryan Fisher Top Injury Attorney



Sources:  CBS News