Teaching fireworks safety to kids

sparkler, fireworks safety
Seemingly harmless sparklers can burn at temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Growing up in Virginia, I learned about fireworks safety early. In our neighborhood near Washington, D.C., fireworks stands began appearing around the first of June. I have great memories of dusk celebrations and running around with the neighborhood kids, waiting for moms to set out lawn chairs and pass out the popsicles while dads lined up cone fountains, ground spinners and bottle rockets.

Plus, my sister’s birthday is on the third of July. Her party always included an early fireworks display, complete with sparklers and a red, white and blue cake.

But we learned at an early age to stay away from fireworks. Our role was to watch our dads put on a show for us, lighting the fireworks in the middle of the street while we watched from the safety of the sidewalk.

The formula for “black snake” fireworks used to contain mercury — not good for kids.

When we were old enough, my dad taught us how to light the little black tablets that grew into ashy-gray snakes at the curb. It was likely my first encounter with a match.

Dad bought the fireworks. He was always in charge and very serious about safety. We learned to admire the sheer power of the light show: roman candles, flying saucers and all of the pyrotechnics he would assemble and light, one at a time.

It was an example of how to teach respect for a potentially dangerous situation during a time of celebration and great excitement.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that fireworks can result in severe burns, scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime. Even fireworks that seem fairly safe, such as sparklers, can burn users and bystanders.

Safe Kids Worldwide notes that most young children’s arms are too short to hold sparklers, which can heat up to a dangerous 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The organization recommends offering glow sticks instead. Children should be closely supervised around fireworks at all times.

In Arizona, the sale of “permissible” — also known as “state-approved” — consumer fireworks is allowed from May 20 through July 6. The use of permissible consumer fireworks is allowed from June 24 through July 6. Learn the specifics about which fireworks are legal for sale and use in the state of Arizona.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety urges families to respect local laws. If you are traveling and plan to include fireworks in your Fourth of July celebration, check to make sure they are legal. Most states have legalized the sale of fireworks. Check this map to see the variations on what is permitted in each location.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety

  • Always have a hose or bucket of water handy.
  • Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter or combine them.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”
  • Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter, who should wear safety glasses.
  • Only those over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
  • Never use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives — they can kill you! Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community.