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Using fireworks? Use caution, too

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Unlike most states, Utah has two holidays to celebrate in July. However, this uniqueness can result in further danger to firefighters and medical workers.

"In the Journal of Pediatrics in 1996 there was a study of fireworks," said Dr. Kris Rittichier, an emergency medicine pediatrician at Primary Children's Medical Center. "Ninety-five percent of fire injuries were from June 22 through July 14. In Utah, extend that because of Pioneer Day here."

The majority of injuries Rittichier sees during the July holidays are burns. Hands are most often burnt, followed by heads and faces. Eye injuries are also common.

Rittichier said public firework displays are the most accident-free way to celebrate the holidays. If parents use fireworks with their children, she advises them to watch their kids, especially the small ones. "If they're going to use fire, they need to be a far distance away from the kids."

In addition to medical concerns, Gov. Mike Leavitt and Salt Lake City Interim Fire Chief Reinhard Kauffmann have voiced concerns about the likelihood of house and forest fires ignited by fireworks.

Leavitt has reminded Utahns to exercise extreme caution with fireworks over the Pioneer Day holiday because of dry conditions throughout the state.

During the July Fourth celebration, fireworks started wildfires that caused heavy damage.

Illegal fireworks were identified as the cause of the fire that started July 3 and scorched 253 acres of Red Butte Canyon.

Also around the Independence Day holiday, a blaze in Mill Creek Canyon forced evacuation of homes and fires roared through the Oquirrh Mountains east of Tooele, near Logan, and at Rock Creek near Hardware Ranch. All of these were attributed to human mishap or carelessness, as no lightning struck those areas.

"This is a season of heightened fire risks," Leavitt wrote in a public statement. "As a result, fireworks have been banned in all federal, state and private lands."

However, this does not apply to private lands in incorporated cities that are allowing fireworks.

He encouraged Utahns to check for bans or restrictions enforced by local jurisdictions and to obey them. "If Utahns use fireworks in areas where they are allowed, I remind them to use extreme caution," he added.

In Salt Lake County, Kauffmann banned fireworks in the following areas: east of Foothill Drive, east of Wasatch Drive, north of North Campus Drive, east of Virginia Street, north of 11th Avenue, City Creek Canyon, Immigration Canyon, north of 1700 North, west of I-215.

He also offered the following advice when using fireworks: Only light fireworks after reading and following safety instructions, keep fireworks away from combustibles, keep a bucket of water handy and never relight a firework that malfunctioned.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com