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How to not die from fireworks, courtesy of the Clinton administration

In 1996, the government blew things up on the National Mall to protect your kids. And you, really. Anyone who might be using fireworks or be near someone using fireworks or who might go outside at all ever when someone in the universe is using any type of fireworks. You really can never be too careful.

It was two days before the Fourth, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission trekked out to the base of the Washington Monument to blow things up. Craig Winneker tweeted the full video earlier this morning, and it's at the bottom of this article. But we figured it was more fun to break out the various pieces of advice and accompany them with GIFs. So we did that.

Tip 1: Do not hold sparklers against tiny children.


There are two or three dudes, presumably employees of the CPSC, who have the enviable task of setting off the fireworks in each of the demonstrations. These days, they'd probably wear goggles and full flame-retardant suits, but these guys just look like extras from the "Sabotage" video. One of them, wearing a headset and probably smoking a Winston, ambles up to two dolls positioned on a table, lights a sparkler in the hand of one, and then twists it so that the sparkler is resting against the dress of the other. The dress catches fire.

Who knew. Who knew that would happen. Thank you, CPSC.


The best shot of this sequence, though, is when the camera pulls back. The little doll on the right is in flames. But there in the background is a fire truck. Just in case, you know, the little dolls set all of the grass on the National Mall on fire. Always be prepared.

Tip 2: Do not set off bottle rockets in your pants.


Now let's talk about '90s fashion. I lived through it, I know about jorts and long-sleeved tees. But this kid looks ... off. What's up with his hands? Why is he wearing a Dodgers hat, of all teams? And why does he have a bunch of bottle rockets in his jorts pocket?

One of the Sabotage dudes comes up and sets the bottle rockets off. The video is great here because you can hear the whistling as they erupt. Again: valuable advice from our government. Bottle rockets are far more fun when you shoot them into the air. They're rockets! Rockets don't go in pockets.™ (Trademark: Washington Post, 2014.)

And more good advice: Jorts are pretty good at not catching fire. Put on some jorts, for Pete's sake.™

And now my favorite part.


This is a metaphor for something, probably. I love the last little spray right in the face as he's walking away.

Tip 3: Do not give salutes while holding cherry bombs.


And now let's talk about the mannequins. This is clearly surplus from a Falls Church Montgomery Ward that went out of business. The mannequin stood in windows, wearing top fashion at some point in the past. Now look at her: bad wig, dumb shades, a ball cap from an unidentifiable team. Where'd they get the clothes, anyway? Did they ask for volunteers? "Do you have any jorts you aren't using?"

Anyway, a Sabotage guy blows off her hand. It's fun to think that maybe this was actually a scene from a Mannequin-style uprising, where animated mannequins began a march on the White House until evil government agents blow off their hands. How are you going to hold that M-16 now, lady?

Tip 4: Tables can explode, too.


Not even going to explain this one. But if you wear a hat while seated at the dinner table, you deserve what you get.

(Also, where did the curtains come from? What was the budget for this thing, and if it was over $18, I'm calling Grover Norquist.)

Tips 5 and 6: And fruit. The world is a deadly, horrifying place.


(don't make a gallagher joke don't make a gallagher joke don't make a gallagher joke don't make a gallagher joke)

I actually don't know what the point of this is. Yeah, cherry bombs can blow things up. But you can shatter a watermelon by dropping it. It's not like this is a steel box you're putting your explosive into. It's fruit. The stand doesn't even get damaged.

Anyway, I've watched this 40 times and I can't figure out where the watermelon pieces went.

Tip 7: Any safe firework use requires a portable jail cell.


Someone made this cage so that two Sabotage guys could set off Roman candles or something. And it's a good thing they did! After the second explosion, the rig falls over and is pointed right at the camera. That cage saved some poor C-SPAN intern's life. Thank you, cage.

But they really didn't need the wheels. Four Sabotage guys could have carried that thing around. They all look pretty fit. Or ask the firemen to help. They aren't doing anything.

And with that: Watch the whole thing. Warning: The GIFs are better.

This post initially posted over the Independence Day weekend in 2014.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.



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