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Metro Detroit

July 14, 2014

Local fireworks injuries, damage down this year, officials say

By Sarah Wojcik
C & G Staff Writer

With the legalization of consumer fireworks in January 2011 in Michigan, the potential for serious injury and property damage increased, but emergency responders and health professionals cited a decrease in destruction this Independence Day.

Many police departments reported no injuries or damage and fewer noise complaints than in prior years, including Shelby Township, Troy and Utica. Troy police said they received 42 calls for service for fireworks complaints from July 2-6 this year, compared to 57 fireworks-related complaints from the same time frame last year.

By the same legislation that legalized consumer fireworks, fireworks detonations are only allowed the day before, day of and day after 10 national holidays.

In Sterling Heights, Fire Chief Chris Martin said his department responded to two grass fires caused by fireworks. At 7 p.m. July 4, the attached garage of a home near 16 Mile and Ryan roads also burned to the ground, but Martin said the incident was likely not caused by the fireworks verified to be in the garage at the time of the blaze.

“While (the fireworks) could possibly have intensified the fire, garages typically have all types of things that burn, such as gasoline, propane and oil,” he said, and added that the origin of the fire remained unknown. “As far as injuries, this year, we were pretty fortunate. We didn’t have any fireworks-related injuries, which is unusual.”

In the past, he said Sterling Heights fire personnel mostly saw burns and eye injuries. Last year, he said a canon tipped over, and the mortar detonated into a garage and injured a couple of kids and one adult.

Peter Lopez, M.D., a Henry Ford Macomb Hospital trauma surgeon, said the hospital did not see an increase in injuries this year and that they generally see one or two fireworks-related injuries per year around the Fourth of July.

“Most of the fireworks stuff we see is pretty minor. It’s really kind of rare that someone blows their hands off,” Lopez said. “Kids burn themselves on sparklers, and people burn themselves when lighting off bottle rockets.”

He did add that, this year, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital had to transfer a gentleman to its Detroit location to see an optometrist, due to a firework that ignited upward toward his eye.

David Donaldson, D.O., an emergency medical specialist at Troy Beaumont Hospital, said he was out of town this year, but in the past, the majority of fireworks-related injuries occurred in the region of the upper extremities and eyes.

“I have noticed a general increase (in fireworks-related injuries) since two years ago, when they lifted the ban on fireworks,” Donaldson said. “Most of it is home fireworks — people doing their own thing.”

Although he added that, one year, Troy Beaumont Hospital did see a woman who lost sight in her eye due to falling debris at a professional fireworks show. He said the hospital also dealt with a low number of individuals with blown off fingers and hands.

He estimated that the hospital sees approximately five to 10 patients per Fourth of July holiday with injuries due to fireworks.

As far as property damage, police reported minor incidents.

On July 5, a St. Clair Shores resident reported fireworks damage to the hood of his Dodge Ram. In Bloomfield Hills, police said fireworks lit by teens in a park left some marks on the tennis courts.

Capt. Stephen Stanbury, of the Shelby Township Police Department, warned fireworks users to use caution when igniting explosives, monitor minors’ fireworks usage and avoid controlled substances during such activities.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at swojcik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.