COLUMBUS -- A deputy state fire marshal and eye health advocates issued their annual warning Thursday against the use of fireworks in backyard displays over the coming Fourth of July holiday.
And they continued to urge residents to refrain from any type of fireworks -- whether legal snaps and smoke bombs or sky-bound spark showers.
"There is no safe way to use backyard fireworks," said Gary Smith, a longtime pediatric emergency room physician and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. "Every legally available kind of consumer firework has been associated with serious injury or death."
Consumer class fireworks, including bottle rockets and Roman candles, can be purchased in Ohio by anyone 18 or older, but they cannot be used in the state.
Instead, they must be taken over the state's borders within 48 hours of purchase. The illegal possession or discharge of such fireworks can result in a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Novelties, including sparklers, snakes, smoke bombs and snaps, are legal for backyard use, but they can still cause injuries.
About 11,400 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms nationwide last year for fireworks-related injuries, according to report released Thursday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"That's a 31 percent increase over the previous year and the highest number of injuries reported in the last 16 years," said Sherry Williams, president and chief executive officer of Prevent Blindness Ohio.
Sixty-five percent of those injuries occurred within a month of Independence Day. Some 2,300 injuries were caused by sparklers, and 40 percent of injuries were to children younger than 15.
Ohio-specific injury data have not been compiled by state advocates, though Jeff Leaming, chief deputy state fire marshal, said fireworks caused about 10 fires resulting in $22,000 in damages last year.
"We people to only [attend] authorized public fireworks displays," Leaming said. "Those are the only ones that are legal to go to in Ohio. We encourage you to stay at a safe distance and allow the professionals to shoot off those fireworks."
Williams added, "Fireworks are extremely dangerous. Do not purchase, use or store fireworks or sparklers of any type. Protect yourself, your family and your friends by avoiding fireworks and sparkers. Attend only authorized public displays conducted by licensed operators, but be aware even professional displays can be dangerous and you need to heed safety guidelines."