NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW/NEXSTAR) – The most hazardous thing people do on the Fourth of July is hold fireworks in their hands.
Scott Jones knows the pain all too well.
Last year, Jones was lighting a mortar shell that exploded unexpectedly, blowing the fingers off his right (dominant) hand. Surgeons were able to reattach Jones’ thumb, but nearly a year since the life-changing incident, he continues to have phantom pain in his hand.
Jones feels anxious approaching the Fourth of July holiday.
“I’ve told a lot of people I will probably be in the basement just trying to watch TV. It’s not the fireworks’ fault, it was mine. But again, I just want people to be very, very safe,” Jones said.
Andy Harderr, fire marshal with the Newton Fire Department in Kansas, says following the manufacturer’s guidelines can give you the safest experience. This rings especially true for neighboring counties, towns and states with different parameters for legal/illegal fireworks.
“Shoot it where you buy it. Everybody has different rules about what can and can’t be sold,” Harder said.
When shooting fireworks, Harder recommends keeping simple items on hand to assist with any emergencies: A hose hooked up to a pressurized water source, a fire extinguisher, a bucket with water and a headlamp are all simple solutions.
Dry grass, brush and limbs can pose hazards if an ember from a firework were to catch a brush pile on fire.
Over the past year, Jones said many people have connected with him over close-call experiences handling fireworks, with others realizing just how close their brush with tragedy could have been.
He says the situation has transformed his outlook on life to focus more on serving others.
“Everything happens for a reason. If I can save one finger on one child, just something, that will be worth my fingers,” Jones told KSN last year.
Fireworks can be dangerous for bystanders as well, not just those lighting the fuse.
On Thursday, 17 people, including 10 police officers were injured in Los Angeles when what was meant to be a controlled detonation of fireworks the bomb squad ended in a major explosion.
Several residents were evacuated from their homes, and police spent the night combing through the neighborhood to make sure there weren’t any hazards scattered in the area. Investigators believe the explosive material was bought from out of state, and transported to South L.A. to be resold to community members, according to the police chief.
A fatal blast struck a duplex in Raytown, Missouri on Monday night, killing a 31-year-old man and severely injuring a pregnant woman and her 3-year-old son. That explosion is now being blamed on illegal fireworks.
The woman, Erica Williams, was 21 weeks pregnant according to her friends. They got her out alive, but she broke bones in her back and one of her legs. Her 3-year-old son also broke both of his legs. Both are still in the hospital.
Three other children in the duplex suffered minor injures including a concussion, and cuts and bruises.
Family said the man killed was Williams’ longtime boyfriend and the father of their 3-year-old and the baby on the way. Investigators believe he was making illegal fireworks in the basement where his body was found.