The Fourth of July means celebrations and fireworks. But in Fort Worth, the fire department wants to remind citizens that fireworks are illegal.
The Fort Worth Fire Department said illegal fireworks continue to cause injuries and fires throughout the city each year. Officials held a demonstration for the media on Monday to try and spread the word to residents to leave the fireworks to the professionals.
Less than 10 seconds after a firefighter lit the wick, a firecracker exploded in a dummy's hand at the Fort Worth Police & Fire Training Center just north of downtown.
The damage to the hand could be clearly seen, as was the damage to another dummy from a sparkler, where sparks left burns to both the dummy's clothes and body.
Firecrackers, sparklers and anything else that requires ignition can cause such injuries and are completely illegal in the city's limits.
"If it has a fuse or has to be lighted to be initiated, then it's illegal in Fort Worth," said Batt. Chief Landon Stallings, a city fire marshal.
Stallings said this holiday weekend the department will see an increase in every kind of fire — house, grass or otherwise — all because of fireworks.
"Just like bike helmets and seat belts, where we've learned the facts and we do better now, or we do different, we're hoping the same thing with fireworks, that people understand it's time to leave those to professionals," he said.
Stallings said the Fire Protection Association estimates that fireworks cause more than 17,000 fires a year, leading to $32 million in damages. Stallings said those numbers become more compelling when you consider that fireworks are typically only sold and used around Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.
The problem in Fort Worth is that anyone can drive a short distance from downtown and legally buy fireworks at stands in unincorporated parts of Tarrant County.
"It's the reason why there's such a pervasive problem, because they're so readily available just right outside our borders," Stallings said.
Having them in your possession in the city could lead to a fine as high as $2,000, as well as confiscation of the fireworks. The only legal way to possess them is to have them in their original packaging stored in a compartment in a motor vehicle.
Despite the illegality, the real concern, again, is safety. Even sparklers, if used wrong, can lead to serious injuries.
"If they grab that wire, it's a third degree burn almost instantly," said Dr. David Smith, director of trauma at Texas Harris Health Methodist. "And what do they grab with? The palm of their hands, [which are] very dangerous to hurt because it affects function."
Smith said his hospital expects to see 15 to 20 fireworks-related injuries this week. MedStar said last year it picked up three people with serious burn injuries, and two of them were children.
Those numbers are why Fort Worth Fire wants residents to follow the law this holiday and stay safe.
"Just avoid the risks of penalty and also injury and just enjoy the displays put on by the professionals," Stallings said.
Fire patrols will be out over the weekend looking for illegal fireworks. Police officers may also cite people and confiscate illegal fireworks.
Another danger is risk of sparking grass and house fires. The recent rains have greened-up areas across town, and humidity levels remain high. Those are good things, however, Stallings said with high winds and rising temperatures, there is a great fire risk once those humidity levels rise.
"It's surprising what a small amount of time with low humidity and high temperatures it takes to dry that vegetation and make grass fires a real risk," Stallings said.