HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In 2020, fireworks were involved in an estimated 15,600 injuries that were treated in hospital emergency departments across the nation. Two years later, Acting State Fire Commissioner Charles McGarvey urges Pennsylvania residents to take protective measures during the upcoming holiday weekend.

“Our message today is clear, fireworks are not toys,” said McGarvey. “While dangerous, we acknowledge that these devices have a lengthy shared history with our nation’s Independence Day celebrations. First and foremost, we want people to understand the risks, how to properly handle fireworks, and to encourage users to be courteous to their neighbors and communities.”

According to Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline, 66 percent of firework-related injuries happen around the Fourth of July holiday.

“As many residents have told me, ‘Chief, it’s a war zone out here,'” he said.

This happened in July 2021 in West York. Eight-year-old Elijah Hawkins died after improperly disposed of fireworks caught his family’s home on fire.

Officials said a few simple steps can help keep homes and families safe, including setting off fireworks a good distance from houses. Fireworks cannot be set off within 150 feet of a home.

“With our tight-packed streets, and our tight-packed homes, it’s very difficult to find that area that’s 150 feet from that occupied building,” Enterline said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks start more than 19,500 fires per year and cause around $105 million in property damage.

To avoid injury or property damage this year, McGarvey says:

  • never allow children to play with fireworks, even sparklers, which can burn at temperatures of at least 1200 degrees
  • only allow adults to light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back away.
  • never point or throw fireworks at another person
  • keep a bucket of water or garden hose handy in case of a fire
  • never pick up or try to relight fireworks that have not fully ignited
  • fully douse fireworks with water before picking them up or disposing to prevent trash fires
  • never use fireworks after consuming alcohol, or other medications or substances that can impair judgment or the ability to react quickly to an emergency
  • always remain at a safe distance from the firework’s ignition location
  • be sensitive to neighbors and their pets, particularly if military veterans live nearby.

More restrictions could be coming. A bill in the Pennsylvania legislature would limit when fireworks can be used and give local authorities more control.

Enterline said that could make a big difference, giving local departments “The ability to go out and really hammer down and crack down on this misuse that we see every single year.”

To learn more advice and tips for the July 4th weekend, click here.