Fireworks are ‘little bombs’ and should be left to the professionals

Consultant warns of the risk of serious injury at Halloween

It is illegal to possess or operate fireworks without a permit. Photograph: Alan Betson

It is illegal to possess or operate fireworks without a permit. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Firework displays should be left to professionals and if that is not possible should only be handled by sensible and sober adults but never children, according to an emergency consultant who encounters horrific injuries every year due to fireworks going off prematurely.

Dr Chris Luke said that while the situation regarding fireworks had improved considerably since the 1980s and 1990s, children and adults still suffer significant injuries every Halloween.

“Fireworks are little bombs and the more the explosive content the bigger the flash and the display, but equally the bigger the risk of serious injury and every Halloween season in Cork University Hospital we see half a dozen people who suffer significant injuries due to fireworks going off prematurely,” he said.

Casualties in the four weeks before and after Halloween include serious hand and facial injuries, loss of fingers and facial burns.

Dr Luke said fireworks should be left to professional pyrotechnic companies with the necessary expertise.

Fireworks show

“My worst episode with fireworks was when I was working as a registrar in Edinburgh back in the 1980s. One night we had a scoutmaster, a young man in his late 20s or early 30s, who had been organising a fireworks show for the scouts and their parents.

“He had bent down over the fireworks and a massive rocket had taken off straight into his face – he survived but he lost his face and effectively he lost his life in the sense that he was as badly damaged as any war vet. Fireworks are little bombs and should be treated as such.”

Just weeks ago a 14-year-old girl lost a number of fingers and suffered significant injury to her face and eye when a firework went off prematurely in her hand as she was playing on Barrack Street in Cork city.

Gardaí have pointed out that it is illegal to possess or operate fireworks without a permit. They will continue to clamp down on illegal fireworks as part of their annual Operation Tombola.

Gardaí in Limerick are preparing a file for the DPP after they arrested and questioned two men in their 20s and 30s following the discovery of 12 boxes of illegal fireworks with an estimated retail value of €2,000 when they stopped and searched a car in Clarina, 9kms from Limerick city.

Seizures

No figures are available yet for the number of seizures to date in 2018, according to the Garda press office, but last year a total of 183 fireworks offences were reported with the value of fireworks seized amounting to €5,330.

In 2012 the number of fireworks offences totalled 267 and the value of fireworks seized was €20,420. The number of seizures dropped to 113 in 2014 but the value of fireworks was €21,851.

The number of fireworks offences in 2015 was 92 with the value of fireworks seized of €6,370. The following year saw an increase in both figures to 132 firework offences and the value of fireworks seized of €15,537.

The sale, possession or use of fireworks in Ireland is illegal save where “a professional type fireworks display is authorised under permit”, according to a Garda spokeswoman.

“Apart from the risk of injury, fireworks can cause great distress and annoyance of elderly residents. They can set off intruder alarms, causing unnecessary extra demands on Garda resources and they can also cause great distress to family pets and animals.

“Finally, there is always the possibility of outbreaks of fire in property if fireworks such as rockets continue to burn after landing,” said the Garda spokeswoman. She added that anyone with information about illegal fireworks should contact their local Garda station or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.