Last week, this blog explained how safety officials in the Los Angeles area were asking people celebrating the Fourth of July to watch a fireworks show rather than light off their own fireworks. A recent explosion that injured dozens of people showed that fireworks can cause burns and other serious injuries even when they are handled by professionals.
Experts say the injuries at the fireworks show were unusual but not unheard of. During the show in Simi Valley, a red and white fireworks display exploded, sending hot bursts into the crowd instead of the air. At least thirty-nine people were injured and many of the thousands in attendance fled.
The victims were from 17 months to 78 years old and included 12 children. They suffered burns, shrapnel wounds and in some cases injuries from trampling. All but three were treated and released by the next day.
As victims recovered, investigators began the task of figuring out what happened. Fire investigators said they were unsure of the cause, but police said witness accounts indicated that a firework may have exploded too soon in its mortar. That could have knocked others over and aimed them across the field.
Investigators planned to see whether the fireworks display was set far enough back from spectators and whether those safety rules were adequate to prevent injury to the public. They planned to fly over the scene to photograph it in addition to examining the debris.
Although this fireworks accident was serious, fireworks shows in general cause fewer injuries to people than fireworks lit off by individuals. The Consumer Product Safety commission estimates that an average of 200 people go to the emergency department each day during the month around the Fourth of July holiday.
Sources: The Associated Press, "Calif. fireworks accident injures 39," Gillian Flaccus, July 6, 2013; Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Fireworks Information Center"