PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fireworks arrived early this year in Philadelphia. Police have received thousands of complaints of people setting off fireworks in the city over the past month and hospitals have seen an increase in injuries.
Officials say fireworks happening for the past few weeks are growing more powerful and more frequent. With the coronavirus pandemic and recent civil unrest, they’re causing fear, anxiety and disrupting sleep.
In addition to the psychological turmoil, there are a growing number of physical injuries too.
A fireworks fight was captured on video in Logan, part of a new pandemic trend. Weeks before the Fourth of July, fireworks were blasting through the evening sky around the country and here in Philadelphia.
“People have been cooped up for a long time with COVID and they are aching to get out,” Dr. Deborah Pierce, with Einstein Healthcare, said. “It definitely is startling and it pulls out that anxiety and that worry that has been so close to the edge.”
And fireworks are dangerous.
Pierce says the emergency department at Einstein usually sees injuries around the Fourth of July, but they’re earlier this year.
“We’ve had two significant injuries of them, both of them life-altering injuries,” Pierce said.
“It can happen in a blink of an eye,” Josh Baker, who was injured by fireworks, said.
Baker’s big toe was used to reconstruct his thumb after his hand was injured in a fireworks accident.
This year, with many firework shows canceled because of the pandemic, officials are worried there will be more injuries. Two out of five Americans are planning home displays, many buying fireworks for the first time.
“Most commonly the fireworks that we see causing injuries are either the bottle rockets, but sparkler also people don’t realize can go to a temperature of 2,000 degrees,” Pierce said.
Last year, 10,000 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries. Twelve people died.
Here are some safety tips if you plan to use fireworks:
- Never let young children play or light them, including sparklers
- Never try to relight or pick up a firework that’s malfunctioning
- Have a bucket of water or hose nearby just in case
“When we see injuries, it’s common that those guidelines aren’t being addressed,” Pierce said.
Mayor Jim Kenney has been reminding people on Twitter that fireworks can’t be fired within 150 feet of occupied structures, which covers most residential neighborhoods.
Setting off fireworks illegally is a summary offense, punishable with a fine up to $100. But officials admit it’s hard to enforce because it’s difficult to find the people who set them off.