With the coronavirus pandemic cancelling many professional fireworks displays, doctors say people are crossing borders to buy fireworks in states where they’re legal, but still very dangerous.
“Now you have amateurs, who never really use fireworks before, trying to set off M-80’s or quarter sticks of dynamite or some of these mortars. They're coming in with horrific injuries,” said Dr. Stathis Poulakidas, Division Chief of the Burn Unit at Cook County Health.
Poulakidas said his unit has been treating fireworks injuries earlier this year, than they have in years past.
“We've seen them as early as May, when some of the things opened up in the state of Illinois. With that, that's a far earlier time period, so we’re kind of seeing them slowly trickle in and we're worried about a big spike right now during this next week's worth of festivities,” Poulakidas said.
While “consumer fireworks” are illegal in Illinois, sparklers are considered a “novelty” and are legal. Organizers with the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance say they are still very dangerous, and set up a safety demonstration at St. Alexius Medical Center Tuesday.
Mike Figolah, a retired fire chief, touched a sparkler briefly to t-shirt that was on a child-size mannequin, and the shirt quickly caught fire.
“Sparklers burn at up to 1,800 degrees. So many people don’t realize the dangers associated with it,” Figolah said.
In all, 45 percent of all fireworks injuries happen to kids, according to the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, so the agency’s advice for parents is simple.
““I know this year this is a difficult year because a lot of shows have been cancelled, but they are out there. Don’t do the backyard displays. Don’t buy fireworks. When things go wrong with fireworks, they go terribly wrong,” Figolah said.
There are professional fireworks displays in the Chicago area that have not been cancelled. You can see a list of those displays on the NBC Chicago website.