"Male. Firecracker. Partial dismemberment. (Lost) Two fingers right hand."
"Female. Sparkler. First degree burns right eyelid."
"Female. Cherry bomb. Laceration right and left knee."
Those are three of the 27 injuries that occurred during last year's July 4 holiday period, from June 26 to July 10 in the District of Columbia. "Fifteen of the injuries were attributable to the use of illegal fireworks; five to fireworks of an unknown origin and seven to legal fireworks," said Battalion Chief Michael Tippett, public information officer for the D. C. Fire Department.
More injuries are expected over the next few days as area residents light hundreds of pieces of fireworks to celebrate the nation's 207th birthday on Monday.
"Oh, yes, someone always gets hurt," Tippett said.
In an effort to keep casualties to a minimum, local fire departments are on the lookout for illegal fireworks. They are monitoring local stands for compliance with local laws. They are on the alert for bootleggers who buy fireworks in one jurisdiction where they are legal and bring them into another where they aren't.
What's legal and what's not varies from one area to another--and so do the penalties for violating the laws. Here is a summary of the laws in the Washington area:
Maryland: State law prohibits the use of all fireworks except gold sparklers. But even gold sparklers have been outlawed in Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Baltimore City. Violators are subject to a civil fine of up to $250 and a criminal summons with a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail, according to Montgomery County Fire Chief James Dalton.
Virginia: State law permits some fireworks and prohibits some others. In addition, some areas such as Alexandria have banned all fireworks. The penalty for a violation in Alexandria is a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail. Arlington, Fairfax County and most other parts of Northern Virginia allow the sale and use of a variety of fireworks, such as fountains, sparklers and pinwheels that don't emit a spark greater than 12 feet. But other more powerful fireworks, such as firecrackers, cherry bombs and torpedoes are illegal. Penalties vary but can range up to a $1,000 fine and one year in jail, said Capt. Ronald Peck, Fairfax County's deputy chief fire marshal.
District of Columbia: Regular sparklers, fountains and cones, and certain types of candle fireworks are legal in D.C., but any fireworks that contain more than 25/100ths of a grain of explosive or that emit a spark or flame greater than 12 feet are illegal, Chief Tippett said. Firecrackers and cherry bombs also are illegal, he said. And so are sparklers that are more than 20 inches long. Maximum penalty for selling or using illegal fireworks in D.C. is a $300 fine and 10 days in jail.
"We are confiscating any illegal fireworks we can find; we take them down to the fire training academy and destroy them," Tippett said.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 8,500 people injured by fireworks last year required treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Most of the injuries were to children and youths whose hands, faces and eyes were hurt.
Here are precautions that CPSC urges consumers to take to avoid getting hurt this year:
* Make sure there is a manufacturer's label on all fireworks and that there are instructions for proper use. Illegally manufactured fireworks rarely have either. Report any sales of illegal fireworks to state or local police departments.
* Store fireworks in a dry, cool place and avoid rough handling that might damage the fuses.
* Provide adult supervision for children and do not allow very young children to handle fireworks.
* Light only one firework at a time.
* Soak malfunctioning firecrackers with water to prevent their possible future use.
* Keep water available.