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July 5, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Are July 4th fireworks getting out of control in Seattle?

I’m a night owl who can sleep through just about anything, but last night was hard. About four hours of sleep has me thinking Independence Day celebrations should exclude allowing drunk and/or inept people anywhere near a lighter and flammable objects. Not saying we need to ban fireworks. I’m just begging everyone to use their common sense. Lighting fireworks is a largely unregulated activity. Recognizing our own limits — and those of others — when it comes to handling these things could prevent tragic outcomes.

 With a loud report, this fireworks explodes after being lit amid spent items at the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe's site in Auburn. (PHOTO BY ALAN BERNER/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

With a loud report, this fireworks explodes after being lit amid spent items at the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe’s site in Auburn. (PHOTO BY ALAN BERNER/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

On my way back to Seattle from Olympia, I must have driven by at least a dozen fireworks displays. It was actually pretty cool.  Luckily, the “oohs” and “aaahs” didn’t cause any accidents. By the time I reached Capitol Hill, though, the sound of sirens was persistent and annoying. I thought things might calm down after midnight. Wrong. The sporadic sound of cracking continued well past 2 a.m., along with what I can only assume is the sound of behavior driven by inebriation.

I suppose July 4 is all about the boom-boom and I just need to chill out. Welcome to life in the big city? I’ve been looking at The Seattle Times’ homepage this morning. The headlines indicate some people had a much rougher night than I did.

Random mishaps occur all the time, but injuries from fireworks are preventable. According to this July 2 news story by Sarah Zhang, the myriad of federal, state, and local regulations is too difficult to enforce. About one-third of fireworks are set off by people at home. Too soon to know the tallies this year, but Zhang reports that in 2012:

Fireworks both legal and illegal were involved in 226 injuries and 128 fires in Washington last year, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. That’s 3.3 injuries per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the national rate of 2.8.

I don’t want to be the Grinch who stole July 4, but I get tired of reading about people who forget about basic safety.

Earlier in the night, I admit I enjoyed seeing some firecrackers lit outside my parents’ house. My uncle knew exactly what he was doing. Those of us who didn’t feel comfortable stood back and urged caution. Things got a little too loud, so we made him stop. No one got hurt and we had a great evening. This scenario is the exact opposite of an experience I witnessed several years ago, when a friend of mine ignored his wife’s stern warnings and lit a homemade firecracker that looked like a sparkler. It flew through the air and landed right between the eyes of our other friend as she opened the gate to the backyard party. She’s lucky she still has two eyeballs. We all should have spoken up earlier.

Fireworks are just one way to celebrate America’s birthday. Not everyone has to blow stuff up in the streets to feel good about freedom. If we must continue this American tradition of lighting things up en masse, then fine. For the most part, July 4 is a light, fun holiday. Just be really careful out there.

Comments | Topics: fireworks, july 4, Seattle

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