AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Alongside the increased risk of wildfires brought by the ongoing drought, experts from both local and national levels have warned that fireworks used over the Fourth of July weekend cause a range of serious injuries each year. With that in mind, they’ve offered tips for safely handling fireworks and options for family-friendly firework alternatives.
According to the Amarillo Fire Department’s Jeff Justus, each year officials see burns on faces, hands, and legs due to distractions, drinking, or the mishandling of fireworks.
Meanwhile, the National Safety Council noted that fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires yearly, including structure and vehicle fires. For those who live in an area where consumer fireworks are legal to buy and use, the council suggested a list of ‘Do’s and Don’t’s including:
- Do Not
- Don’t allow young children to handle fireworks, and always closely supervise older children
- Don’t use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Don’t hold lighted fireworks in your hands
- Don’t light fireworks indoors
- Don’t point or throw fireworks at another person
- Don’t ignite devices in a container
- Don’t try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks
- Don’t use illegal fireworks
- Always wear protective eyewear when using or standing near fireworks
- Always only use fireworks away from people, houses, and flammable material
- Always only light one firework device at a time
- Always soak spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding
- Always keep a bucket of water nearby to extinguish fireworks that don’t go off
Altogether, the National Safety Council advised that people enjoy fireworks at public displays put on by professionals, and avoid using fireworks at home. Their safety is questionable even for seemingly innocuous fireworks like sparklers, even when legal. Sparklers, the council noted, count for over a quarter of emergency room visits related to fireworks, and for over half the fireworks injuries suffered by children under five years old.
Further, as noted by local officials such as Justus, setting fireworks off within city limits can disturb people, upset pets, and impact veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not to mention that within the City of Amarillo, possessing, selling, or using fireworks within the city limits is illegal.
With safety and legal issues in mind, people might consider using alternatives to fireworks during their Fourth of July celebrations. A few of those options may include:
Glow sticks are a common alternative that can be found through online and in-person retail stores. The plastic tubes typically light up after chemicals inside react together and can be visible for upwards of 24 hours.
Bubbles are often considered an eco-friendly and cheap alternative to fireworks, both available at retail locations and possible to create at home. While they’re possible to make with only water and dish soap, scientists in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science have reported that adding glycerin and corn syrup can help bubbles last longer.
For a basic homemade bubble solution, stir and dissolve together:
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of Karo syrup or glycerin
- 4 tablespoons of dish soap
As explained by the Don Harrington Discovery Center (DHDC), “Elephant toothpaste” is an example of an exothermic reaction, with yeast working as a catalyst to make an intense and bubbling display.
The DHDC’s Youtube page hosts an instructional video for creating the experiment, alongside a list of needed supplies:
- Plastic bottle
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Dish soap
- Warm water
- Food coloring (optional)
In another set of experiments from the DHDC, those at home over the holiday weekend could create miniature rockets that don’t use flames or harmful chemicals.
For an ‘explosive’ Alka-seltzer rocket, you’ll need:
- Film canister
- Alka-seltzer tablets (or any effervescing tablet)
For miniature rockets, you’ll need:
- A round pencil
- Bendy straw
While these popular birthday treats can be filled with candy, they can also be filled with colorful streamers for additional patriotic flare. No matter what’s inside, piñatas are available in retail stores and also can be crafted at home using balloons and paper mache.
While large light shows tend to be put on by professionals, a number of retailers sell machines that can be synced with music to provide dazzling entertainment without the use of chemicals or flames. However, those using laser lights at home should be aware of where they’re pointing and become familiar with federal and local guidelines.
For instance, people around Amarillo can look to the City Code of Ordinances for prohibited outdoor lighting, and laser device guidelines for the State of Texas can be found on its Department of State Health Services website.
Confetti poppers, or “party poppers” are available in stores, and also can be created at home – these handheld trinkets usually make a loud “pop” noise when a string is pulled to release confetti.
Supplies used to create these poppers often include:
- A cardboard toilet paper tube
- Wrapping paper or crepe paper
- Cracker Snaps (optional, to create the “pop” noise)
- Twine or ribbon
- Double-stick tape
For those wishing for an active and fun display of vibrant color, water balloons can be filled up with red, white, and blue paint and thrown to splatter a tarp or a safe surface. However – those using this option should make sure to use non-toxic paint that can be washed away from whichever surface will be splattered.