DeKALB – Fireworks and barbecues are two of the most popular ways to celebrate the Fourth of July.
They are also potentially dangerous.
Local law enforcement officials are urging residents to be safety conscious as they celebrate Independence Day during an increasingly hot and dry summer. The quickest way to turn a celebration into a tragedy, they said, is by handling fireworks.
Although only licensed professionals may ignite most fireworks in Illinois, officials say their use still is frequent and always dangerous, even in less extreme weather conditions. An estimated 6,200 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms between June 17 and July 17 of last year, according to a release from the Sycamore Fire Department.
Jim Ward, fire prevention coordinator for the department, said he could not remember a Fourth of July holiday that posed this many safety threats.
“This is a high-risk Fourth of July, with the droughtlike conditions,” Ward said. “We just want to stress that people should leave the [fireworks] to the professionals.”
Sycamore police Lt. Darrell Johnson said officers have been instructed to crack down on
fireworks more than in previous years. Johnson said residents should not hesitate to call the police to report fireworks so officers can find exact locations and stop the potential danger.
Some problems already have occurred in the DeKalb County, with arrests being made in Waterman. Waterman Police Chief Chuck Breese said officers had to make an arrest for fireworks that were landing in the yard of the offender’s neighbor.
“The biggest problem right now is the dry ground,” Breese said. “We have the same problems year after year, but there is a bigger concern with property damage this year.”
In 2009, fireworks caused $38 million in property damage in Illinois, according to a DeKalb Fire Department release.
Even legal products can pose a serious threat, officials said. Sparklers in particular are seen as safe by many people but can cause third-degree burns, as they reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. There were 1,100 injuries caused by sparklers reported in Illinois last year, Sycamore fire officials said.
DeKalb interim Fire Chief Eric Hicks said one of the overlooked dangers could be the cookouts. He said although many are aware of the heat, taking breaks inside might not be enough and it is important to frequently hydrate with water. He added it is also important to properly dispose of charcoal.
“The heat is supposed to be relentless and it’s going to be something we’re watching over the next few days,” Hicks said. “Spend some time inside.”
The final common threat, as with any holiday, is drinking and driving, said Gary Dumdie, chief deputy at DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office.
Statistics gathered from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that 392 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes during the Fourth of July holiday season in 2010. Dumdie said officers are always prepared for an increase in drinking and driving during any holiday.
“Holidays are peak times,” Dumdie said. “Our officers are on the lookout for that and have a good record of catching it.”