SALT LAKE CITY — A young boy is enjoying the Fourth of July, swinging a sparkler around, and a spark flies off and jumps down the front of a little girl's polyester dress, which ignites quickly. She's too scared to remember to stop, drop and roll.
A young girl is playing around with a bottle rocket her dad bought for the cul-de-sac fireworks show and thinks it would be funny to teasingly point it at another kid. It goes off directed right at them.
A family is setting up tents for their Fourth of July camping trip and their toddler wanders off to the fire pit. The coals are still hot from the previous campers' fire, and the toddler, bending to look, is propelled by the weight of his head into the fire, and ends up losing all 10 fingers from serious burns.
These are possible emergencies that could happen to Utah children this Fourth of July, said Annette Newman, University of Utah Burn Center outreach and disaster coordinator, and Brad Wiggins nurse manager at the center. They've seen tragedies like this in their burn center in previous Julys.
"We do see an uptick in burn admissions, and many of those are children under the age of 5," Newman said. "Folks don't realize the devestating injuries that fireworks cause."
Wiggins said his No. 1 thing to tell Utah families is to let the professionals put on the fireworks show. But, he said it would be naive to think no one is going to set off their own fireworks on neighborhood streets.
"If you're gonna do it, please make sure you practice in safety, please make sure you talk to your loved ones about these things," he said Tuesday. "There shouldn't be any child who's lighting fireworks, and unfortunately that's a common nature that you will see tomorrow night and tomorrow and all the way through the rest of July is that tons of children (use fireworks)."
Newman said a firework responsible for many child burn injuries is the sparkler.
"Something as simple as a sparkler can reach greater than 1,200 degrees, which is hotter than a blowtorch," she said. "So giving a 2- or a 3- or a 4-year-old … a sparkler can be really detrimental, as they don't realize the heat that is produced on the tip of that sparkler."
Many child fire injuries are related to a cultural problem surrounding birthdays, Newman said.
"We get a cake with a candle on it when we're a year old, and when we blow that candle out we think we can control fire, and we think we will be rewarded for playing with it with gifts and cake," she said. "We never really do a very good job as culture of telling people, ‘No, you won't get rewarded for playing with fire and you can't control it.’ It is uncontrollable."
Newman said parents should remind their children about basic fire and burn safety rules during the upcoming holidays, including to stop, drop and roll if any part of their clothing catches fire, and to run burns under cool, not cold, water to take the heat out of the burned tissues.
"This is an unfortunate month for the burn center," Newman said. "It's fortunate that we celebrate America's freedoms and we celebrate the pioneers on the 24th, but unfortunate in that there are two times as many fires reported this time of the year than there is any other time just because a lot of the activity going on. Folks are using fireworks, and 2 out 5 of those fires are caused by fireworks."
Newsman referenced the several current wildfires burning in Utah as another detrimental reason Utahns should practice safety around fireworks.12 comments on this story
On Monday, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams also discouraged the use of fireworks this July due to current dry and hot weather conditions. Utah is the second-dryest state in the country, based on statewide average participation, according to Current Results.
Wiggins said University Hospital's burn center usually sees a few hundred cases of small injuries involving fireworks a year and a handful of "very catostrophic-sized" injuries from fireworks.
The University Hospital's specialist center is open 24 hours a day, and anyone can call 801-581-2700 to ask a medical professional about a burn accident.