Another Independence Day is in the history books. According to our first responders in Ark City where fireworks are legal, the only major incident was a vehicle fire caused by a roman candle. That incident occurred in the country.

I enjoy the 4th of July and I cherish all that it stands for. But in some ways, I always find myself breathing a sigh of relief when it is over. Watching people play with explosives, especially unsupervised children, always concerns me. 

For some, fireworks create a lot of emotional stress. Those who served in the military often find the loud explosions hard to deal with. My wife’s father struggled each year with the noise created by fireworks. The months he spent in a combat zone, pinned down on an island by the enemy made it hard for him to cope with any sort of explosive sound. 

The loud noises also frighten pets and livestock.  

Most communities have ordinances regulating the dates and hours that fireworks can be discharged. When those hours are not adhered to, it creates difficulties for those trying to sleep, especially those with young children. 

Fireworks are fun and beautiful to watch. But they are also very dangerous. We are actually playing with miniature bombs, which can cause terrible injuries and even death if not handled carefully. My brother and I never handled fireworks carefully. I hate to admit it, but we took a lot of foolish risks. It’s amazing that we avoided having a major injury, considering some of the stupid things we used to do. 

But even when properly supervised and handled as recommended, fireworks can cause injuries and property can be damaged or destroyed. Fireworks often malfunction and once the fuse is lit, the results are unpredictable. 

My family and I attended a special party this year to celebrate the holiday. We had a wonderful time. The evening was filled with great food, music and activities for the kids. Many families brought their personal fireworks and had fun lighting them while waiting for the city firework display to begin. 

I walked around the area watching and photographing the different fireworks. Some were loud and annoying, while others were unique, beautiful and interesting. About 10 feet in front of me, a young teen was attempting to light some sort of device. Seconds later, it apparently malfunctioned and exploded violently. Fortunately no one was injured, but it was rather alarming. 

That’s the problem with fireworks. We can do all the right things, and take all the right precautions, but we can’t predict when a device is going to malfunction, what it will do or where it will go. 

Most of the time, the person injured is the one actually lighting the firework. But innocent bystanders are often placed in harms way. Fallout from fireworks can cause burns, start fires on adjacent properties, or fall on roadways and damage passing vehicles. 

This became very clear to my family this year. While watching others shoot off their fireworks, and watching the municipal display, my wife found herself in the path of an exploding firework. 

A large firework burst, launched much too close to the crowd of observers, rained down several large pieces of hot debris. She received a bad burn, and we made a hasty retreat to seek medical attention. While she was not seriously injured, it was painful and clearly demonstrated how dangerous fireworks can be.  It could have been much worse.

Fireworks have always been a major part of our nation’s Independence Day celebration. While I have no desire to light them, I can’t imagine our country celebrating the holiday without them. 

Many communities have outlawed personal fireworks, and only allow commercial displays. Looking at the number of injuries, fires and even deaths caused by fireworks across our nation each year, I can understand why some cities have taken that position. But I don’t think we should outlaw them, we just need to practice common sense when using these items and provide proper supervision when minors are involved. 

Looking back, my parents gave us almost no supervision. With some of the stunts we pulled, they probably should have confiscated our fireworks. 

When it comes to fireworks, always expect the unexpected. Be prepared for possible emergencies and make every effort to minimize the risk. If we put safety first, we can help our first responders to have an uneventful and downright boring firework season next year. 

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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