Fireworks: Handle with Care

Published 4:24 am Wednesday, June 27, 2007

By By Adam Prestridge
Fireworks can be dangerous, as dangerous as a getting behind the wheel after polishing off a bottle of whiskey or diving head first into a kiddie pool.
Unfortunately, hundreds of accidents similar to those occur each year. The week of Fourth of July is one of the deadliest holidays each year, but as if drinking or not thinking properly weren't enough, you throw fireworks in the mix. New Years ranks right up there with July 4th.
In a way, fireworks are similar to playing with a loaded gun. A game of Russian-roulette without a spin of the chamber.
Growing up, fireworks were not a problem for me. There was no need to be afraid of them. They were harmless.
Or so I thought.
My friends and I would buy up as many fireworks as we could on those "firework" holidays. You know the ones, you can not miss them. They are the ones when the owners of those colorful trailers that resemble storage bins dust the cobwebs off their merchandise and open for a few weeks. Personally, I thought they were abandoned trailers until growing up and learning otherwise.
We would take the fireworks and hide them from our parents, some in sock drawers and others in shoeboxes under the bed. One of my friends even had a fancy leather briefcase that had one of those three number combinations below the flip locks on each side to store his tiny arsenal in.
Now-a-days people may dub this behavior as terrorism, but all we were doing was being boys. It wasn't unusual for bottle rocket wars to start. We would light the fuse of a bottle rocket, while it was still in our hands and hurl them at each other. No one ever got hurt, so we thought it wasn't dangerous.
That was until the summer after my seventh grade year. It was Fourth of July and I was hanging out with my best friend at his aunt's and uncle's house with several members of his family including several cousins and some of their friends.
Following a traditional plate full of barbecue, potato salad and baked beans, and don't forget a bowl full of homemade ice cream, we decided to shoot some fireworks. There was no need for an empty soda can or bottle or light sticks because war had already been declared. We had chosen sides and it was time to go to battle.
Again, everyone stayed out of harms way. Bottle rockets buzzed past our heads and popped at our feet, but no one had made a direct hit. Then we heard a muffled pop. We didn't know if someone had lit a firework off in a bucket or what.
As we gathered in the front yard, we noticed that one of the boys, I believe his name was Andy, was missing. We walked around the back of the house and found him slumped over on his hands and knees holding his right hand. As soon as we saw him, we knew what had happened.
Apparently, Andy attempted to light a bottle rocket with an extremely short fuse and was not able to throw it before it exploded. I am happy to report that he only suffered a small burn that left a black mark for several days, which we later found out was a bruise. The blast also left his hand tingling, but no limbs were lost.
Even though this story had a happy ending, some do not. Children and even adults are injured by fireworks each year.
So be safe this Fourth of July. Use lighter sticks, place fireworks, especially bottle rockets, in a bottle before shooting and keep your distance. And always assume a dud is still lit.
Don't become a statistic.
Have a happy holiday.
Adam Prestridge is publisher of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123.

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