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New national data shows a significant increase in fireworks-related injuries and deaths during the pandemic. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report says at least 18 people died in 2020, compared to 12 in 2019. About 15,600 people were treated in emergency rooms, up from 10,000 the year before.

“Many of the municipalities around the country had canceled their public fireworks displays, and it may have been that consumers took their own celebrations into their backyards and into their own hands,” says Patty Davis with the CPSC. “Eight of those 18 deaths were to someone who had been using alcohol or drugs. You need to be very careful when you’re using fireworks, she says.

Most injuries from fireworks occurred in the month around the 4th of July (June 21, 2020 to July 21, 2020), according to the CPSC. The report shows firecrackers caused the most trips to the ER, followed by sparklers.

Consumer Product Safety Commission safety tips:

  • Never let children use fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Never try to relight or pick up a firework that is malfunctioning
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse
  • Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks
  • Never point or throw fireworks and sparklers at anyone
  • Keep a bucket of water or hose nearby

Michael Spencer wants everyone to know about the dangers of fireworks. “Leave the fireworks to the professionals,” he says. At a backyard barbecue in 2015, a mortar shell style firework changed his life in an instant. “I lost my pinky. I lost my ring finger, the tip of my middle finger and my thumb from my left hand. On my right hand I lost my index finger in the tip of my middle finger and damaged my thumb.”

Michael has had 16 surgeries to try to rebuild his hands. “This happened to me for a reason. So, if we can prevent one person from getting hurt or losing their life this year, what I’ve been through is well worth it,” he says. He hopes others get the message.