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Fireworks this Fourth of July could be a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't event, if Utahns aren't careful.

Ophthalmologists warn that improper use of fireworks continues to cause hundreds of fires, accidents and eye injuries each year."The Fourth of July is a holiday that I don't look forward to because of the significant danger it offers - particularly to children's eyes because of fireworks," said Dr. Robert M. Christiansen, president of the Utah Ophthalmological Association. "It's not a good time to be an eye doctor."

Christiansen said serious injuries resulting in the loss of an eye or significantly decreased vision are seen locally each year.

Despite educational efforts by several groups, the incidence of eye injuries due to fireworks has increased over the past seven years.

According to Christiansen, young children inappropriately holding fireworks - particularly firecrackers that explode in their hands before they're thrown - represent the majority of those injured.

Bottle rockets, the small explosive rockets launched from a bottle, party poppers and blasting caps are also dangerous. Victims are both the handlers and bystanders watching the blast.

Even seemingly harmless glittering sparklers cause their share of injuries and accidents.

In fact, Murray Fire Chief Wendell D. Coombs, said sparklers are one of the biggest causes of fires, especially roof fires. Smoldering sparklers set wooden shingles ablaze.

Ditto for grass.

Coombs said anytime the weather is dry and the humidity low, a small spark from any type of firework will set off a fire in the dry grass. As evident by the recent Antelope Island fire, anything in the path of burning grass is also ignited.

That's why the Murray fire chief this year asks citizens not to bring any fireworks into the parks on the Fourth of July.

A Murray ordinance also requires a permit for any public firework display.

Firework displays at private homes, Coombs cautions, should be done on the pavement. Fireworks should never leave the ground; anything that spins or flies can't be controlled.

All home displays must be well supervised by a parents holding a hose to douse any resulting fire. Coombs said most of the fires, injuries and accidents each year come from unsupervised children who are playing with fireworks - legal and illegal.


(Additional information)

Avoiding injuries

-Be sure the fireworks are legal.

-Never attempt to make your own.

-Don't allow children to ignite fireworks.

-Adults should closely supervise children's use.

-Always wear glasses or safety goggles.

-Don't put fireworks in bottles, tin cans or under clay pots.

-Don't throw sparklers into the air or wave them near another person's face.

-In case of an eye injury, do not press, rub, or touch the eye; get medical care.

-Have water handy.

-Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

-Never use fireworks indoors or in dry grassy areas.