Fireworks-related injuries in Minnesota seem to parallel a gradual national downward trend, according to a recent report from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The trend is a reflection of greater caution in general, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Becki White.

"People are more safety-conscious all around," she said, noting an increasing acceptance of safety gear such as bicycle helmets and seat belts.

Nationally, the number of reported fireworks injuries fell from 9,600 to 8,600 from 2004 to 2010. In Minnesota, reported injuries declined from 111 in 2004 to 57 in 2009. In 2010, the total moved back upward, to 87, but White said that's because more hospitals took part in the tally than in previous years.

Dr. George Peltier, director of the Burn Center at Hennepin County Medical Center, said his recent Julys reflect the downward trend. "They're certainly not up," he said, noting that he'd seen only one case so far this year, someone from out of state who was intoxicated when a commercial firework went off in his hand.

Often, White and Peltier said, when injuries occur, mostly to hands and face, they're a direct result of poor judgment, such as:

• Use of illegal or professional-grade fireworks by untrained amateurs.

• Use by intoxicated people.

• Use other than as directed, for example, releasing a bottle rocket or Roman candle by hand instead of from the ground.

• Unsupervised use or accidental contact by children.

Over the past five years, young people 10 to 19 years old and people in their 20s have been the largest groups suffering fireworks-related injuries, at 28 and 24 percent, respectively, according to the state fire marshal's office. Children 9 and under are next, accounting for 19 percent of the total.

Men and boys also make up 72 percent of those injured during that time.

Some injuries occur among the smallest children, who see older siblings using sparklers, for example, and grab with their hands at the pretty, sparkly -- but 1,200-degree -- metal. Or children drop spent sparklers in places where others step on them, barefoot, while they're still hot.

White noted that use of illegal exploding fireworks is problematic, not only because those devices are dangerous, but because people are trying to use them surreptitiously.

"Generally, when you are doing things that are illegal, you're not doing it in the safest manner," she said. "They're trying to hurry."

She urged prudence among parents. "We tell them to stay away from the stove that's 350 degrees ... but we hand them sparklers, which shoot out sparks onto their little baby hands," she said. "And keep in mind you are showing your kids you are playing with fire when you're using fireworks."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

FIREWORK INJURIES

8,600 The number of reported fireworks injuries nationwide fell from 9,600 to 8,600 from 2004 to 2010.

87 In Minnesota, reported injuries declined from 111 in 2004 to 57 in 2009. In 2010, the total moved back upward, to 87, but more hospitals took part in the tally than in previous years.

10 to 19 This age group has suffered the most fireworks-related injuries, at 28 percent of the total, says the state fire marshal's office.