Hoorah, the spectacular Fourth of July fireworks display will return to the National Mall — and with a throng expected to watch in person.
Here’s hoping the celebratory pyrotechnics in Washington, D.C., also will be confined to this and other public displays — and not creating mayhem for the next few weeks in neighborhoods across the region and the country, too.
C’mon, scofflaws with fireworks: The country’s return to normality isn’t license to harm yourself and others, keep the law-abiding up at all hours with firecracker explosions, and to terrify humanity’s four-footed pals for no good reason.
Experts caution that even so-called safer fireworks, such as sparklers commonly handed to kids by uninformed parents, burn at crazy temperatures — 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt many metals.
It’s harmless boy fun to head to rural stands and drag back stashes for several months of setting off fireworks, right? Here is what the National Safety Council has reported:
“In 2017, eight people died and over 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents. Of these, 50% of the injuries were to children and young adults under age 20. Over two-thirds (67%) of injuries took place from June 16 to July 16. And while the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, an estimated 1,200 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers. Additionally, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires.”
The concerns about fireworks-triggered outdoor blazes could not be higher in drought-parched parts of the country — meaning roughly the half of the nation in the West, where authorities are bracing for what may be a wildfire season of historic horrors.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that people with illegal fireworks seem to lose multiple degrees of humanity and intelligence in the glow of an igniting match, as a local broadcast outlet noted, reporting on a June 2 incident in the nation’s capital:
“A Roman candle fired from the street ignited a fire on the fifth-floor balcony of a housing property in Northwest Washington, according to DC Fire … Investigators say dozens of senior residents were put at risk in [the] fire and several people were evaluated by crews at the scene. The incident occurred on N. Capitol Street and firefighters were able to get the fire under control. DC Fire says launching fireworks in the city is dangerous and illegal. Any person found engaging in the use or possession of illegal fireworks in D.C. could face fines and penalties up to $1,000 and/or arrest for further prosecution.”
An emphatic ‘no’ to ‘celebratory’ gunfire
There is an elevated level of reckless stupidity, of course, with individuals who shoot off guns in the air, claiming this is part of patriotic festivities associated with the Fourth.
As law enforcement and other first-responders are quick to note, whatever goes up must come down — and, as recently as 2018, an 11-year-old girl innocently playing in an alley on 46th Place SE was injured when struck by bullets fired by a suspect firing a weapon as his companions shot off fireworks.
Just a reminder: The District has tough gun possession and discharge rules, with tough charges and penalties attached, especially in specified zones, notably around school property.
The coronavirus pandemic already unnerved enough people across the country that gun sales soared — and we’re all struggling, including in the region around the nation’s capital, with an epidemic of deadly gun violence.
As real patriots would caution: Keep your powder dry, meaning don’t traffic nor use fireworks or weapons, please. If you can’t do this for people’s sake, know that the human festivities can be crazy-making for dogs, cats, and other animals, for which owners should take precautions (here’s what veterinarians and humane folks suggest).
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damage that can be inflicted on them by defective and dangerous products. Fireworks mostly are illegal, they are without discussion dangerous, and consumers have little protection from products of this ilk that are poorly made.
After months of being overwhelmed in treating coronavirus cases, what emergency room doctor or pediatrician wants to explain to a parent that their kids will forever struggle with damaged hearing, missing digits, or severe burns because of firework mischief? What police officer or EMT wants to deal with victims of gunshots fired randomly in the air?
This is supposed to be a special summer for us all, and especially the young. We’re finally getting to move around, and enjoy activities and friends and loved ones we haven’t gotten to see due to the pandemic. But maybe we also can let go of risky and unhelpful past activities and traditions. Can we be better and cut down on the boozing or use of marijuana or other intoxicants and driving during the long weekend? Can we skip exploding, private fireworks for the Fourth? Have a fun, healthy, safe, and memorable holiday!