SAN JOSE — When Alazar Ortiz woke up at Regional Medical Center the morning after the Fourth of July last year, his gaze immediately went to the two huge fists of bandages and gauze at the end of his forearms.
“I didn’t know what I had left,” said the 40-year-old San Jose resident. “So I tried to move my fingers, and I went ‘Wow. I don’t have any fingers.”
Ortiz lost his right hand and all but two fingers on his left when a powerful mortar-style firework detonated unexpectedly at a Fourth of July celebration at his family’s home near Cassell Park.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 11 people were killed and more than 10,000 were injured by fireworks in 2014. Three of the people killed weren’t even involved in setting off the fireworks–one was a woman who died from smoke inhalation when a sparkler was thrown into a second-floor window, and two were a couple killed when debris from a neighbor’s fireworks set fire to their home.
Here are CPSC’s fireworks safety tips:
- Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees─hot enough to melt some metals.
- Do not buy fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.
Update to add CPSC’s 2015 fireworks safety video, which released after I set up this post: