Emergency room visits to treat injuries from fireworks are on the rise in Minnesota.
Last year, at least 89 people were treated for fireworks injuries during the weeks around July 4, the most in the past decade, according to the latest data from the state fire marshal. That’s about 1.6 injuries per 100,000 Minnesotans, which is lower than the national rate.
However, the actual number of injuries is far larger because the fire marshal only tracks fireworks injuries treated in emergency rooms, and not all injuries are treated there. Also, the data is only collected between June 22 and July 15.
One person died last year, although the accident didn’t happen around July 4. Trevor Reichel, a 19-year-old from Cook, Minn., died last November after trying to launch a mortar-style firework from a hardhat that was on his head. He was playing with the firework in a Mountain Iron backyard.
Reichel’s death is the only fireworks-related death in Minnesota since 2006, according to the fire marshal’s office.
Nearly three-quarters of those injured in the past 10 years were male. Not surprisingly, a disproportionate number of those hurt were young: more than 40 percent of the people injured were under age 19.
Officials at the fire marshal’s office say they don’t know what’s driving the apparent uptick.
Dr. William Mohr, director of the burn center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, said that Regions seems to be dealing with more injuries caused by aerial mortars, but the hospital doesn’t have statistics. His center is bracing for a surge in activity in the coming weeks.
The state fire marshal doesn’t release details on local injuries, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which also collects data from hospital rooms in the summer, says the most common injuries are burns, with hands and fingers most likely to be affected.
Hospital emergency rooms across the country treated 10,500 fireworks injuries from mid-June to mid-July in 2014, the most recent year that national data is available. That’s a rate of 3.3 per 100,000 people, which hasn’t changed greatly over the years.
Sparklers and firecrackers are the top known culprits, each causing about 1,400 injuries. (Of the firecrackers, about 28 percent were illegal firecrackers.) Reloadable shells were responsible for 600 injuries. Bottle rockets and other rockets were linked to 300 injuries. About 300 injuries stemmed from public fireworks displays. But nearly one-third of the reported injuries didn’t specify the type of device that caused the injury.
At least 11 people died in 2014 across the U.S., including four who died in house fires caused by fireworks.
In Minnesota, there has been an ongoing push to legalize more types of fireworks. Efforts this year failed. Minnesota bans firecrackers (which is probably a surprise to many readers), bottle rockets, missiles, Roman candles, mortars and shells. Basically, you’re only supposed to use fireworks that don’t leave the ground.
It’s no secret, though, that nearly all types of fireworks are readily available just across the border in Wisconsin.
The fireworks industry is booming. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that consumers spent $755 million on them last year, up from about $600 million a decade ago.
Jennifer Bjorhus can be reached at 612-673-4683 or firstname.lastname@example.org