You can legally buy fireworks at tents and retail outlets in many states, and in some states, you can even buy the fancy aerial fireworks and throw a fireworks event every bit as big and spectacular as a professional display.
But fireworks aren’t legal everywhere, and there’s a reason for that — they can be dangerous. If you’re planning to set off fireworks at home, you need to make your safety — and that of your family — a priority. Be especially vigilant with children, because about half of fireworks injuries occur in those under 20 years of age. It’s best if only one person is handling and lighting the fireworks, while everyone else watches the show from a safe distance. The fewer people you have lighting fireworks at your home, the fewer people are likely to get injured, because most people sustain firework injuries while igniting them. Follow these tips to light fireworks at home safely.
Mount Fireworks to a Rack Before Lighting Them
Fireworks, by definition, shoot sparks and flames into the air, so you want to make sure that the tube or cake remains anchored in place while it’s emitting sparks and flame. You should never hold a firework in your hand while you’re lighting it, or attempt to relight a firework that looks like it hasn’t been ignited, or try to keep fireworks in your hands while they’re firing. It’s not even very safe to set fireworks on the ground, especially explosive aerial ones, because they can fall over and end up shooting their flames at people, structures, animals, or vegetation instead of harmlessly up into the sky.
Screw your firework tubes and cakes to a heavy section of plywood — one about two by eight feet should do the trick. You can screw lengths of two-by-four or two-by-six planks to the bottom of the plywood to add some weight and make it easier to pick up. If you don’t want to screw the base of your firework tubes to a plank, you can build a mortar rack that will allow you to zip tie the mortars in place or stand them upright between two lengths of wood.
Wear Protective Clothing While Lighting Fireworks
You should wear a hat, gloves, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, and boots while you’re lighting off fireworks. A baseball cap turned backwards offers protection for both your head and the back of your neck. Choose 100 percent cotton items, because synthetic fabrics melt. Cotton is not naturally flame resistant, but you’ll get burned less severely if you’re wearing it, because it ignites rather than melting.
Keep Your Spectators at a Safe Distance
Spectators should be kept at a distance of one and a half times the aerial height of your highest firework. If your highest firework displays at a height of 120 feet, your spectators should be kept back at a minimum distance of 180 feet. You need that much space on the other side of the firing line, too, and make sure that there’s nothing in the debris field that could catch on fire, nor any overhead obstructions like power lines or trees.
Be Prepared to Put Out Fires
Keep a fire extinguisher, a hose already connected to the spigot and ready to turn on, or a couple of buckets of water handy while you’re lighting off fireworks. That way, if something catches on fire, you can douse it quickly. For optimal safety, keep a fire blanket on hand in case you need to extinguish a family member.
Nix the Sparklers
Speaking of extinguishing family members, you should reconsider providing sparklers, at least to young children. While you might think of sparklers as a bit of harmless fun, they can actually burn at temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees. If your child or nibling drops one of these on his or her feet, serious burns could result — especially if the sparkler ignites the child’s clothing. When you buy fireworks online, choose a safer option like bang snaps, glow sticks, black snakes, or confetti poppers.
Don’t Light Fireworks on Windy Days
You can light fireworks in the rain — most commercial fireworks have water resistant packaging, and you can wrap them in aluminum foil for additional water resistance. But if it’s windy at all, you should save your home fireworks show for another day. Wind can blow the sparks and flames from your fireworks far out of the planned fallout zone, and could cause a fire.
Fireworks can be a fun and wholesome way to celebrate with friends and family, but it’s important to use them safely. Fireworks can cause serious injuries if mishandled — a few people even die each year in firework accidents. So put safety first, so you and your family can make great memories year after year.
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