ST. PAUL, Minn. — The State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) and Minnesota firefighters are bracing for an uptick in fireworks injuries and property damage as people put on their own fireworks celebrations following the cancellation of many public shows due to COVID-19.
Minnesota State Fire Marshal Jim Smith is asking Minnesotans to find safe and creative alternatives for celebrating Independence Day to prevent injuries and help reduce the strain on first responders and emergency rooms.
“The past few months have been stressful for us all and we know people want to celebrate the Fourth of July. But fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable. We need Minnesotans to be safe, not sorry. Let’s not place further burdens on first responders and emergency room staff still working tirelessly to deal with COVID-19.”
Flying or exploding fireworks are illegal in Minnesota, but legal fireworks like sparklers — which can burn at up to 1,200 degrees — can be just as dangerous and cause injury.
“When adults put fun before safety, kids end up getting hurt,” Smith said. “Fireworks can cause devastating injuries in an instant.”
Last year in Minnesota, 59 people ended up in hospitals with fireworks injuries — 43 percent of them age 19 and under. Kids age 9 and under accounted for 16 percent of fireworks injuries in 2019, many of which were caused by sparklers. The SFMD estimates many more injuries are likely unaccounted for because people treat them at home.
Hennepin Healthcare Burn Center Dr. Ryan Fey said fireworks can cause devastating injuries not only due to burns but also other traumatic injuries from explosive force.
“This can result in severe permanent disability ranging from loss of hands, eyes, or large wounds,” Fey said. “Without question, these are preventable injuries.”
Fire officials are also concerned about property damage. Fireworks caused $190,351 in damage to homes and other structures in Minnesota last June and July.
There are few safe and legal spots to use fireworks in densely populated urban areas. Remember, state law only permits fireworks to be used on private property — not streets, alleys, parks or school or government property.
If you do use fireworks or participate in a neighborhood show, remember:
- Use fireworks responsibly, especially around children. Kids mimic adult behavior.
- If it flies or explodes, it’s illegal in Minnesota.
- Fireworks can be disruptive to neighbors and frightening to pets.
- Use fireworks outdoors, far from property and crowds.
- Don’t let children or animals run through the area where fireworks are being set off. They could step on a spent firework that is still hot.
- Sparklers can cause serious burns. Consider glow sticks or light-up wands as an alternative.
- Use a long lighter meant for a gas grill to light fireworks.
- Do not try to re-light a dud. Ever.
- Soak used fireworks in water and leave them outside overnight before discarding into trash containers.
Chalk one up for Independence Day
The SFMD is encouraging families to decorate their driveways and sidewalks with colorful chalk art as an alternative to lighting fireworks. The SFMD has shared some examples on Facebook
What’s legal in Minnesota and what isn’t?
Examples of legal fireworks
- Wire or wood sparklers
- Smoke devices
- Snappers and drop-caps
Examples of illegal fireworks
- Sky rockets
- Bottle rockets
- Roman candles
Q: Are there age restrictions on fireworks purchase and use?
A: To purchase fireworks in Minnesota, customers must be at least 18 years old.
Q: Where can I use fireworks?
A: State law says that fireworks may only be used on private property. It is illegal to use fireworks on public property, including streets, parks, alleys, schools and government property.
Q: What are the penalties for illegal fireworks possession?
A: In Minnesota, possession of less than 35 pounds of illegal fireworks is subject to a fine of up to $700 and 90 days in jail. Possession of over 35 pounds is subject to a fine of up to $3,000 and a year in jail.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 10 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the State Fire Marshal Division
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division is to protect lives and property by fostering a fire-safe environment through fire/arson investigation, code development and enforcement, regulation, data collection and public education. Data collected by the State Fire Marshal Division from fire departments statewide is analyzed and used to determine the best methods of public education and enforcement to improve fire safety in our state.