ST PAUL, Minn. — With most large-scale community fireworks displays canceled this year due to COVID-19, public safety and health officials are bracing for a spike in injuries, fires and property damage as people stage their own shows at home.
State Fire Marshal Jim Smith is among those urging Minnesotans to find safe and creative alternatives for celebrating Independence Day, to prevent injuries and reduce the strain on first responders and emergency rooms.
“The past few months have been stressful for us all and we know people want to celebrate the Fourth of July," Smith said in a released statement. "But fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable. We need Minnesotans to be safe, not sorry. Let’s not place further burdens on first responders and emergency room staff still working tirelessly to deal with COVID-19.”
Although flying or exploding fireworks are illegal in Minnesota, many people still obtain them in neighboring Wisconsin. Also, legal fireworks like sparklers — which can burn at up to 1,200 degrees — can be just as dangerous and cause injury.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) says that last year in Minnesota, 59 people ended up in hospitals with fireworks injuries, 43% of whom were under the age of 19. Kids ages 9 and under accounted for 16% of fireworks injuries in 2019, many of which were caused by sparklers.
Safety officials know there will be those who stage displays in their back yard, on the beach, or somewhere else on private property. Here are some things DPS asks people to keep in mind.
- Use fireworks responsibly, especially around children. Kids mimic adult behavior.
- If it flies or explodes, it’s illegal in Minnesota.
- Fireworks can be disruptive to neighbors and frightening to pets.
- Use fireworks outdoors, far from property and crowds.
Fire officials are also concerned about property damage. DPS says fireworks caused $190,351 in damage to homes and other structures in Minnesota last June and July alone.
There are few safe and legal spots to use fireworks in densely populated urban areas. State law only permits fireworks to be used on private property, and not streets, alleys, parks or school or government property.