A 3-year-old girl lost a hand and part of her arm when a large firecracker she was holding exploded, an incident Baltimore County police yesterday called a prime example of the danger of fireworks.

Police said Nicole Haddix, of Essex, found the firecracker in her family's home Saturday afternoon, took it to a gas stove and lighted it. The blast took off her right hand and three inches of her right arm.

Her parents were not home at the time, but several relatives were and called police.

The little girl was first taken in guarded condition to the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Center. She later was taken to Union Memorial Hospital.

Charges were not immediately filed, but police said an investigation was continuing and a determination may be made about charges as early as today.

In most parts of Maryland, the only legal fireworks are gold-labeled sparklers and those that do not contain chlorates and perchlorates.

All fireworks are illegal in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore.

2 Killed in Montgomery Collision Two Montgomery County residents died early yesterday in a head-on collision on Cherry Hill Road, near the Prince George's County line.

Romona J. Cowan, 51, of Silver Spring, and Kenneth J. Henry, of Burtonsville, were killed instantly when cars they were driving collided head-on, according to Prince George's County police. Henry's age was not available, police said. The cause of the 1:25 a.m. accident is under investigation.