The porch of a southwest Denver home went up in flames early yesterday morning and witnesses told investigators the fire was sparked by a Roman candle. Denver firefighters put out the fire, which was contained to an enclosed porch, in about ten minutes, and no one was injured. But the incident is an early reminder of how dangerous fireworks are.
Colorado law defines a permissible firework as any device that does not explode nor leave the ground. Municipalities and counties have written ordinances that are even more restrictive than the state’s description. While fireworks can be legally purchased in Wyoming and in some unincorporated areas of Colorado, they become illegal when possessed in municipalities or counties where they have been banned. Any fireworks that ignite or explode are illegal in Denver. In Denver and Boulder, a violation can result in fines of up to $999 and up to six months in jail. In Colorado Springs, it is up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
And the danger is not just a threat to by-standers; it is also the extreme danger of wildfires in arid Colorado. About 1,100 fires are started by fireworks in the state each year, according to the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
Every year the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urges families to put safety first during the Fourth of July holiday and celebrate with caution when it comes to fireworks. The latest report from CPSC shows that there were reports of seven fireworks-related deaths and an estimated 7,000 hospital emergency room treated injuries in 2008. In 2007, CPSC had reports of eleven deaths and an estimated 9,800 injuries. The one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July is the most dangerous time, 70 percent of all fireworks-related injuries occurred between June 20th and July 20th.
CPSC continues to work to keep American families safe by educating the public about the risk of injury associated with fireworks, enforcing fireworks regulations, and prosecuting dealers and distributors who manufacture and sell illegal explosives. As a part of its fireworks enforcement program, CPSC actively works with ATF to investigate roadside stands, warehouses and retail stores that sell professional grade explosives to consumers, and homes that serve as havens for the manufacture of dangerous fireworks devices. These investigations have resulted in dozens of successful prosecutions by the Justice Department’s Office of Consumer Litigation and U.S. Attorney offices across the country.
While the federal government remains committed to stopping the manufacture and sale of illegal fireworks, CPSC encourages consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks to:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
- Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don’t realize that there are many injuries from sparklers to children under five. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back a safe distance immediately after lighting.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks fully complete their functioning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding to prevent a trash fire.