As Western New Yorkers head into the Independence Day holiday weekend, law enforcers and medical experts are both reminding the public about the dangers of fireworks when misused. The public is also being reminded that while some counties have legalized small fireworks and sparklers, they remain illegal in others including Erie County.
The Erie County Sheriff's Department hosted its annual fireworks safety demonstration at Chestnut Ridge Park, where they set off an M-80 clutched in a rubber glove filled with gel, simulating a human hand holding the small explosive. As a result of the firecracker, the "skin" on the thumb and base of the fingers was melted away, exposing the gel.
Nationwide, according to statistics released by the Sheriff's Department, children ages 15 and under account for 35 percent of fireworks-related injuries. Most are to hands and fingers, the face, legs and arms. One local medical expert pointed out that younger children are especially prone to injuries by handling some of the fireworks that have just been legalized in Niagara, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, including sparklers.
"These are very hot and heat up to about 2,000 degrees," said Dr. Kathryn Bass, Medical Director of Trauma at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo. "If you can imagine, that's about the temperature metal melts at. And we're putting these sparklers in the hands of children, and you can imagine what might happen to the face and to the hands."
While three Western New York counties have legalized small fireworks and sparklers, they remain illegal in Erie County. Sheriff Timothy Howard told reporters while he supports personal responsibility and urges common sense by those allowed to use them, he and his patrols will be on the lookout for illegal activity such as fireworks use within his jurisdiction.
"The irresponsible handling of these fireworks, the handling of these fireworks that would cause injury and the display of fireworks or any other noises that is causing a nuisance, could result in the response of patrols and detracting from our other duties but resulting in the arrest of the individuals that are doing that," said Sheriff Howard.
The sheriff added that those who cause fires by the use of fireworks can also be charged with arson.