Why I’m Leaving Fireworks to the Pros


My family has a lot of great holiday traditions, and the 4th of July is one of the best. We all gather in a small town on the eastern shore of Maryland – one of those places that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to an era when life was simpler.

The day begins with a hometown parade that goes from the volunteer fire station to the community hall. After the parade, everyone gathers for a community-wide barbecue and picnic, followed by an all-ages baseball game. And of course, no 4th of July celebration would be complete without the fireworks!

As a kid, we watched the local fireworks display from boats on the Wicomico River. I remember huddling up under blankets to stay warm in the cool evening breeze, watching those beautiful bursts of light in the sky and the reflections in the water. But as we aged, so did my uncles’ boats. So a few years ago, we decided to put on a fireworks display for the town ourselves. Being out in the country, there is plenty of wide-open space; it seemed safe enough.

One of my cousins brought fireworks, and headed to the outfield as the softball game wrapped up and the community gathered across the road for his show. We clapped as the first firework shot up in the sky; adults “oohed” and “aahed,” and children squealed with delight as bright bursts of color lit up the sky with increasingly intricate designs and combinations.

Then from the dark edge of the field came a small, shooting ball of light. It shot over the field, across the road, swerved just to the right of the stunned crowd, and came to rest under a tree in front of a neighboring house. A nervous silence fell over the audience as we watched to see whether the rogue rocket would explode, most of us too surprised to move.

It didn’t explode. A few volunteer firemen rushed over, doused the defective firework with water and disposed of it safely.

Nobody got hurt. Nothing caught on fire. No damage was done. But we knew we’d just experienced an amazing stroke of luck.

So whether you’re celebrating 4th of July in a big city or a small town, at a baseball game, in your backyard or on a boat, please don’t rely on luck to stay safe. Here are a few tips for your family when it comes time for the fireworks.

  • Leave Fireworks to the Professionals. The best way to protect your family is to not use any fireworks at home. Instead, attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.
  • Be Extra Careful With Sparklers. Little arms are too short to hold sparklers, which can heat up to 1,200 degrees. How about this? Let your young children use glow sticks instead. They can be just as fun but they don’t burn at a temperature hot enough to melt glass.
  • Take Necessary Precautions. Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks. Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass. Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush, leaves and flammable substances.
  • Be Prepared for an Accident or Injury. Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a device does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out with water and dispose of it. Always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to operate the fire extinguisher properly.

We all grow up learning that it’s not safe to play with fire. But for some reason, we forget that rule every year in July. Fireworks are still one of my favorite parts of the July 4 holiday, but this year, my cousin is getting the day off. We’re leaving the fireworks to the pros.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!