Well that didn't take long.
Within days after sparklers and other stationary fireworks started showing up in stores alongside picnic coolers, bags of charcoal and the ingredients for s'mores, someone almost burned down their house with one of them.
The owner of a house on Hillview Drive in Kingsbury had recently gone to the local Wal-Mart and purchased "fountains," which throw off colored sparks. When the devices burned out, someone tossed them in a garbage can in the garage.
Lo and behold, the garage and part of the kitchen caught fire, rendering the house unlivable. That's a photo of the fire on the right. Firefighters were there for hours trying to put it out. Luckily, no one was injured — this time.
Don't say we didn't warn you. Earlier this year we advocated against counties allowing the sale of the fireworks for the very reason cited above.
The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York and many local fire marshals around the state also all urged local governments to turn down the relatively miniscule sales tax revenue the pyrotechnics would provide and not to allow their sale.
Eh. What do firefighters know anyway?
Despite our nostalgia for the things of our youth, sparklers and the like were banned because they are too dangerous, and people are generally too careless/stupid/drunk to deal with them properly.
Emergency room visits, no surprise, spike around the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve, largely due to fireworks injuries. We especially were concerned that they would get into the hands of kids. We should have been worried about the adults, too.
These things can burn at a temperature of around 1,800 degrees. For some perspective on how hot that is, you can turn a good steak into a charcoal hockey puck at just 800 degrees. A wood fire burns at a top temperature of 1,100 degrees. The Bunsen burner you used in high school chemistry class gets up to 1,000. Gasoline cooks at about 1,200. A blowtorch hits 1,700.
A sparkler can get hotter than all of those. That's what we're talking about here.
But no point closing the barn door after the horses have been let out. These things are here to stay. And there will be a learning curve.
So get on it.
First off, fire officials say, never take them inside once they're out of the package. Don't assume just because the pretty sparkles are done sparkling that the item is safe. It takes a lot to come down from 1,800 degrees.
Fire officials advise thoroughly dousing the items with water and then soaking them in more water, in a metal container, outside, away from structures.
Don't let kids use them, and read all the instructions on the package so you know what they'll actually do when lit and how to handle them.
Don't burn them in areas where they can catch other things on fire.
It all seems like common sense. But as we know, common sense is hardly common, especially when people get around fireworks.
Despite their pretty colors and the fact you can buy them in a supermarket, these devices are not toys. They're very dangerous. And, as we’ve already seen, they can do a lot of damage. If you absolutely insist on purchasing these items, get up to speed on how to use them and how to dispose of them safely.