This great country will celebrate its 246th birthday on July 4, 2022 — a national holiday marking the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress.
Here’s hoping one and all have a glorious, fun, and safe Fourth!
Wouldn’t the holiday be all the finer if folks, especially those fortunate to be in the area of the nation’s capital, enjoyed the flashy public festivities. And if the annual bunch of knuckleheads didn’t partake of illegal fireworks, or the even more dangerous practice of firing guns into the air?
Here’s what the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit, independent safety organization, advises on its website (click on the PDF marked fireworks) about the problems that can occur due to thoughtless juveniles and others setting off illicit pyrotechnics:
“More than 19,500 reported fires are started by fireworks annually. Burns account for 44% of the 9,100 injuries treated in emergency rooms seen in the month around July 4. Half of the fireworks injuries seen at emergency rooms were extremities: hand, finger, or leg. One-third were to the eye or other parts of the head. Children ages 10–14 had the highest rate of fireworks injury, with more than one-third (36%) of the victims of fireworks injuries under age 15. Sparklers account for roughly one-quarter of emergency room fireworks injuries.”
These figures describe preventable, needless, disfiguring, and painful injuries of real people. Those setting off fireworks, of course, too often break local laws — in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
Fireworks frighten and imperil pets and wildlife, the Humane Society advises, reporting:
“On the Fourth of July, many animals become so frightened by the noise and commotion of fireworks that they run from otherwise familiar environments and people, and sadly become lost. They may also suffer devastating or even fatal health effects from the stress. The sudden bright flashes and sounds can cause wild animals to run into roadways, resulting in more car accidents than normal. Wildlife rehabilitation centers are often flooded with traumatized, injured, and orphaned wild animals after the holiday. Predatory birds, like bald eagles, see the harsh sounds and lights from fireworks as a threat, and may abandon their nests or habitats entirely. The explosions may cause other birds to take off en masse for prolonged periods of time and to use up vital energy reserves needed for survival. Fireworks have even frightened birds into flying so far out to sea that they did not have the energy to make the return flight. Wild birds frightened by the noise of fireworks will also fly higher and for longer, which exposes them to the harmful cocktail of ingredients in fireworks like ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide that have caused cardiovascular and respiratory damage, and even death, in humans.
“Casings and heavy metals that are littered by fireworks are often mistakenly consumed by wildlife or even fed to their young. Many of these materials are either indigestible and therefore choking hazards, or toxic to the animal, and pollutants from fireworks can be washed into waterways and contaminate drinking water for the animals that rely on it. And in regions of the country prone to wildfires, the slightest ember from a fireworks display can start a blaze that kills many wildlife species and destroys their habitats.”
Wildfires have become a national nightmare, sweeping parched parts of the country, and causing, especially due to climate change, scary amounts of damage, injury, and destruction. Fire fighters put their lives on the line to battle blazes — and why should the reckless pursuit of momentary fun with fireworks endanger them and others and property?
The smart-alecks who downplay the dangers of fireworks and insist that they are relatively harmless and can be easily handled by those with average intelligence and familiarity with the materials should look up the details of a West Coast, fireworks-related catastrophe. Highly trained Los Angeles police technicians were called to a scene where officers had found and seized a sizable cache of illegal fireworks stored in the garage of a would-be dealer. He was arrested and charged. The techs were called in, with extensive equipment, to deal with the fireworks.
They decided it would be safer to destroy them in a special containment unit, rather than to haul them off. They apparently erred. The blast ripped through the neighborhood, most of which had been evacuated. Seventeen people still were hurt. The explosion destroyed surrounding businesses and homes, throwing upside down what had been a neighborhood of working poor people.
As for the insane practice of celebrating holidays — the Fourth or New Year’s — by discharging weapons in the air, well, just say NO. The DMV — the District, Maryland, and Virginia — already deal with staggering amounts of gun violence and for those crazy enough to fire in the air, simple physics says bullets that go up must come down. The results can be painful and destructive.
Fancy seeing bombs bursting in air and the night sky filled with dazzling displays? Get ready early because one of the nation’s impressive shows occurs on the National Mall, and DC tourism folks have a booming online site with information on participating in these festivities. Maryland (especially in the Baltimore area) and Virginia publish a load of information, too, about dazzling public celebrations for the Fourth.
Enjoy! Please don’t eat or drink too much and be careful with the burning sunshine. If you’re buzzed or sleepy or distracted, find a designated driver, and those who are cycling or walking around busy streets during the long weekend, please safeguard yourselves, too. We all want to be around not only for birthday 246 but also 247 and many beyond!