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State Fire Commissioner Urges Caution Ahead July 4th Celebrations

As millions of Pennsylvanians prepare to celebrate Independence Day, Acting State Fire Commissioner Charles McGarvey joined local leaders and the Burn Prevention Network (BPN) today in urging residents to take the necessary steps to protect both their loved ones and property.

“Our message today is clear, fireworks are not toys,” said McGarvey. “While dangerous, we acknowledge that these devices have a lengthy shared history with our nation’s Independence Day celebrations. First and foremost, we want people to understand the risks, how to properly handle fireworks and to encourage users to be courteous to their neighbors and communities.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that in 2020, fireworks were involved with an estimated 15,600 injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. Approximately half of the injuries reported were burns, with the head, eyes, face, or ears being the most frequently impacted part of the body.

McGarvey gave the following suggestions:

  • Never allow children to play with fireworks, even sparklers, which can burn at temperatures of at least 1200 degrees.
  • Only allow adults to light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose handy in case of a fire.
  • Never pick up or try to relight fireworks that have not fully ignited.
  • After the fireworks have burned, fully douse them with water before picking them up or disposing to prevent trash fires.
  • Never use fireworks after consuming alcohol, or other medications or substances that can impair judgment or the ability to react quickly to an emergency.
  • Whether attending a professional display, or using consumer fireworks, always remain at a safe distance from the ignition location.
  • Be sensitive of neighbors and their pets, particularly if military veterans live nearby.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show fireworks start more than 19,500 fires per year and cause an average of $105 million in direct property damage.

Under state law, Pennsylvanians who are at least 18 years old may purchase and use Class C, otherwise known as consumer-grade, fireworks. Certain restrictions apply, including:

  • They cannot be ignited or discharged on public or private property without the express permission of the property owner.
  • They cannot be discharged from within a motor vehicle or building.
  • They cannot be discharged toward a motor vehicle or building.
  • They cannot be discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure, whether or not a person is actually present.
  • They cannot be discharged while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another drug.

Local ordinances may include additional restrictions, so always check with your municipality before purchasing or using Class C fireworks. Further advice, and seasonal fire safety tips can be found online at www.osfc.pa.gov, by clicking on “Be Fire Safe PA.” Additionally, residents can subscribe to the ReadyPA monthly preparedness newsletter which features timely preparedness tips. Sign up to receive this helpful information here.

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