Daniel Buhrman-Shauna Gerke

The bright booms of Fourth of July are fast approaching, but even nearer are the preceding days of steady pops as people light off their own fireworks. As much as its a thrill for some people to light that wick and even more people enjoy giving "oohs" and "ahs," the season might come with some safety, or even annoyance, concerns.

Front Office Manager Shauna Gerke and reporter Daniel Buhrman debate whether the private use of fireworks is all its crackle-balled up to be.

Buhrman: Here comes the boom

I'm all for the private use of fireworks. I'll admit, that might be because of the childhood memories I have of the holiday and the resultant love of wick and smoke that came after.

My grandpa was the first person I could remember who let me use a firework other than a sparkler. He let me lay a pack of Black Cat firecrackers on the ground, helped me light the fuse and off away we went. The pop, pop, pops thrilled and, I imagine, the whiff of powder I got is one reason I chase the smell of explosive sulfur with the woody smoke of bonfires.

Anyway, like me, I'm sure many people have family memories of lighting fireworks or just enjoy the experience on their on own. I'd like people to experience that joy year to year, so long as it doesn't come to harm others, which brings me to the thought of safety.

Many states, such as in the Southwest, have valid reasons to not allow private use. It's too dry. Fires happen too easily, even with some of the "tamest" fireworks around. Nebraska, however, doesn't really have that problem.

There was a pretty dry summer a few years ago, I'll admit. I heard a lot of sirens going off that year when I was still living in Lincoln, but one dry summer isn't enough to change my mind. Plus, I'm not sure all those sirens had to do with it being too dry.

Likely, some people were misusing fireworks or some fireworks malfunctioned. In 2018, Nebraska had about 200 injuries due to fireworks, mostly to hands and fingers, but eye, ear, facial and head injuries are also common, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

I might be harsh, but I can't say I feel entirely terrible if a lot of those injuries were due to misuse or negligence by the person using the fireworks. The danger is well known, so they should take caution, and if they're negligence hurt someone else, then they should be held legally responsible. I've never liked the idea of a couple bad apples ruining the bunch.

I don't like the idea of a couple bad wicks ruining the booms, either. If some of the injuries are from malfunctions, then the proper reparations should be made to the injured. But private use should remain. Cars and other things malfunction, too, but we're not going to take all of them off the road.

I won't touch too much on the annoyance that can come from fireworks lit too early, too late or too often. As I started with, I love the pop, pop, pops, and I'm a pretty heavy sleeper. Those two things might make me a little more bias toward annoyance compared to safety reasons. Anecdotally, then, that's a one-to-one wash for people I know on those annoyed and those that aren't.

Fireworks are fun for a lot of people. Keep popping Independence Day.

Gerke: Leave it to the professionals

The Fourth of July holds a special place in my heart.  Not only is it about a week after my birthday (which means personal firework sales start on my birthday), it is the day after my wedding anniversary. 

If that wasn’t enough, the holiday celebrates the birth of our nation, and I’m a direct descendent of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which is pretty awesome. 

One of the hallmarks of the holiday is fireworks, both personal and professional displays.  As a child I thought lighting off firecrackers was a thrill (just keep those sparklers away!), but as an adult, I think personal firework displays should go by the wayside.

According to the Insurance Journal, there were eight deaths, including at least two children, and 12,900 injuries from personal firework use in 2017, which is the most recent data available. They go on to say the average number of deaths per year is seven and of the average 11,000 to 13,000 injuries, 36 percent are to children under 15.  Not surprising, 70 percent of all those injuries are to males of all ages and usually consist of burns.  Also not surprising is that sparklers account for 14 percent of those injuries, while firecrackers only accounted for 10 percent. 

Unfortunately, personal fireworks sales are growing due to decreased legislation around the country.  With those changes, the most likely result will be the increase in deaths and injuries.

Maybe my view is colored by a family member’s experience or maybe it’s the thought of the father who has to live with the knowledge his 4-year-old daughter died after being hit by shrapnel from a firework he lit.  Either way, I think limiting personal firework displays is a good idea. 

The City of Blair and Midwest Fireworks always puts on a good show, so I say leave the shows to the professionals.

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