Fireworks, beautiful and vibrant, are frequently used to ring in the new year, celebrate new beginnings and make people smile. The kaleidoscopic chaos that ensues can be so mesmerising it is easy to forget just how dangerous they can be. Every year medical personnel, the Gardai and the fire department are forced to deal with the consequences wrought from the illegal and improper use of fireworks.
In Ireland, fireworks are organised into four specific categories. Items in the F1 group are the only fireworks that can be purchased by members of the public and include party poppers, ground-spinners, Christmas crackers and sparklers. Categories F2-F4 are considered mildly to extremely hazardous and should only be purchased or set-off by professionals. However, as many will know, at certain times of the year, particularly Halloween and New Year’s, the noise from bangers and larger pyrotechnics, seems unending. When the colourful display makes its way across a dark sky, spinning and whistling, despite the wonder of it, it is breaking several laws and inconveniencing an unknowable amount of people.
A representative from the Dublin Fire Brigade agreed that the occurrence of the improper use of bangers and more hazardous items is on the rise, stating, “the use of fireworks is not reported to the fire brigade, it is a matter for An Garda Siochana. So it is not something we track, however, much like members of the public we too have noticed the re-emergence of fireworks.”
He noted that “Halloween season” seems to begin much earlier than October. “It appears to start in mid-August to early September. We generally see an increase in nuisance fires such as bonfires and wheelie bins set alight.” He acknowledges that this poses a risk in regards to Covid-19 stating, “it can be linked to longer evenings and the return to school, it gives a social setting for the use of fireworks. With the coronavirus in mind, it raises concerns over social distancing.”
He urges members of the public to remember that fireworks, though fun and exciting, are “effectively small explosives.” He explained “ each year our firefighters and paramedics are called on to treat injuries caused by fireworks which have been used in a dangerous manner or have ignited prematurely.” He notes “they don’t meet recognised safety standards so the quality of fireworks and smaller bangers can fluctuate widely. Devices can fail to ignite immediately and explode on inspection by the person lighting it. Often a short fuse can cause the firework to explode before the person has retreated to a safe distance.”
The legal ramifications for the misuse and illegal possession of fireworks can be quite severe, with punishments ranging from a €10,000 fine to a prison sentence. But the risk of injury can have life-long consequences. The Fire Brigade stated “the injuries sustained can vary from partial-thickness burns to traumatic amputations of fingers. Eye injuries are very common. The damage can be life-altering.”
The ISPCA too warns about the danger of using fireworks around pets and children. Their website states “the use of illegal fireworks may have little or no safety standards which can cause serious injuries and damage and often children and animals end up tragically injured or often scarred for life.” They further explain “animals become so frightened from the noise of bangers and fireworks going off near their homes that they are driven to extreme behaviour.”
Ultimately, the damage caused by the improper use of fireworks can affect everyone, be it the noise, injury or distress experienced by pets. The Dublin Fire Brigade urge people to be considerate and follow the rules, stating “we appeal to people of all ages, stay away from fireworks.”
More information regarding fireworks can be found at the following link.