Leave Fireworks to the Professionals, Say Public Safety Leaders Fires, Damage Caused by Illegal Fireworks Rebounded in 2022
After a record-setting number of fireworks-related fires in 2020 and a sharp decline in 2021, fireworks incidents in Massachusetts rebounded last year. Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and State Police Colonel John E. Mawn, Jr. are reminding residents to leave fireworks to the professionals this summer.
Fireworks-related fires and explosions in Massachusetts skyrocketed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, jumping from 57 in 2019 to 189 in 2020. These numbers declined significantly in 2021, when 80 incidents were reported statewide.
In 2022, however, Massachusetts fire departments reported 106 fires and explosions attributed to fireworks, an increase of nearly a third over the prior year. More than half of these incidents took place in the week of July 4, 2022. All told, the fireworks-related incidents last year caused 38 injuries and $414,279 in damages – more than double the property loss caused by fireworks in 2020.
“Every single year in Massachusetts, people are hurt and property is destroyed by illegal fireworks,” State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said. “As we count down to the weeks when most of these incidents occur, we’re reminding everyone that fireworks are illegal because they are dangerous. There will be plenty of permitted fireworks displays this summer, so stay safe and leave fireworks to the professionals.”
Last year, joint enforcement efforts by the Massachusetts State Police and Department of Fire Services led to about 40 criminal summonses for violating the state’s fireworks laws. They also took off the streets nearly 3,000 packages of aerial shells, cakes, fountains, bottle rockets, large rockets, Roman candles, sparklers, and other dangerous, illegal devices worth upward of $46,000. Those enforcement efforts will resume this year.
“The unlicensed possession, use, and sale of fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts,” said Colonel Mawn. “Massachusetts law requires the confiscation of any illegal fireworks we encounter, even if legally purchased elsewhere. Massachusetts State Police will seize any illegal fireworks that we discover during routine traffic stops and other activity. And with our local and state partners, State Police will be conducting targeted enforcement efforts to intercept illegal fireworks coming in from out of state.”
Officials emphasized that fireworks, including sparklers, are especially unsafe around children. Sparklers burn at temperatures of over 1,800° Fahrenheit – hotter than the melting point of glass and aluminum. According to a 2021 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “there were an estimated 1,600 emergency department-treated injuries associated with firecrackers and 900 with sparklers” in 2020. This accounted for almost 10% of all fireworks-related injuries that year. Of those 900 injuries from sparklers, 44% were to children under the age of 5. Sparklers burn at such high temperatures that they can easily ignite combustible materials even after they are extinguished: in Dracut last summer, nine people were displaced after careless disposal of sparklers started a three-alarm fire in their home.
Unfortunately, fires, explosions, and injuries caused by fireworks are not a new phenomenon. Massachusetts fire departments reported nearly 1,000 fires related to illegal fireworks between 2013 and 2022, officials said. In addition to the 42 fire service injuries, five civilian injuries, and $2.5 million in damages attributed to these fires, Massachusetts medical facilities reported about 30 severe burn injuries extending to 5% or more of the victims’ bodies that were caused by illegal fireworks.
The Department of Fire Services posts a list of permitted municipal fireworks displays and updates it each week through the summer. To view the list – and to learn more about the dangers of illegal fireworks – visit the DFS website.