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ATF: Fireworks can be deadly

Wednesday - 6/26/2013, 4:51pm  ET

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Smoke clears around a dummy after agents with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms set off fireworks on the National Mall Wednesday. The ATF says some devices can be deadly but offered suggestions to enjoy fireworks safely this Fourth of July holiday. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

WASHINGTON - A warning about illegal fireworks just a week before the Fourth of July.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says 30 percent of fireworks imported into the United States in 2012 were illegal. And the improper use of fireworks led to six deaths and more than 8,700 injuries. More than half of those injuries occurred between June 22 and July 22.

The figures were released as the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms blew up several mannequins and two watermelons on the National Mall Wednesday to demonstrate the explosive power of some fireworks that are often available this time of year.

One of those demonstrations left a mannequin without a right arm.

"There are some fireworks that are explosive devices and people need to be cognizant of what's out there," says ATF spokesman Rich Marianos.

Six men died last year from homemade or banned firework devices.

If you are going to use the legal kind, the ATF has some safety recommendations:

  • Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals.
  • An adult should closely supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

The ATF encourages the public to report the manufacture or sale of illegal fireworks to your law enforcement agencies or to the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).

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