Fort Worth Fire Department Battalion Chief Richard Harrison sees a bevy of catastrophic firework injuries every Fourth of July — despite the city’s ban on the use of firecrackers.
During a recent news conference, Harrison discussed the illegality of fireworks, how to report the illegal use of fireworks to the city and how dangerous fireworks can be if handled incorrectly.
“Fireworks are illegal in the city of Fort Worth,” Harrison said. “The other thing is, they’re dangerous. I know that can start sounding like background noise… we really want that message to be renewed when we speak to it.”
Sparklers, which are normally given to children to wave around are illegal and could be dangerous, Harrison said.
“Sparklers burn as hot or hotter than any other pyrotechnic you’re looking at, and we’re putting them in the hands of 3 year olds,” Harrison said. “We see the injuries every year.”
Blown off fingers and second-degree burns are far too common during the Fourth of July holiday, according to Texas Health Arlington Memorial.
“The most common injuries we see from fireworks are burn injuries and occasionally eye injuries, we see bone fractures and skin cuts or lacerations,” Joni Belz, program manager for trauma service at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, said in a news release.
Calls reporting firework activity to the Fort Worth Police or Fire Department are made far too often, Harrison said.
The Fire Department receives about 400 calls on a normal, busy day, Harrison said. During the four-day period of July 2 to July 6, he expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 calls — 2,500 of them coming during an eight-hour period on July 4, he said.
On any other four-day period they’d take about 1,600 calls, and any normal eight-hour period they’d receive around 125.
To handle the influx, the city set up a task force composed of the fire and police departments and MedStar, a company that handles Fort Worth’s emergency medical services, Harrison said.
To report complaints about fireworks, call 817-392-4444.
Volunteers will be at the phones, log the information and pass it along to the task force, which will prioritize the reports and get someone on scene as soon as possible.
Residents can report firework activity on the MyFW app, where there’s a web application to file complaints, and reportfireworks.fortworthtexas.gov, he said.
“We want those avenues to be prioritized because we’ve got to keep the 911 systems open,” Harrison said.
Harrison reminded residents 911 should be reserved for when there’s an imminent threat to somebody’s health, life, welfare or property.
Though he prioritizes keeping everyone safe this Independence Day, Harrison still wants Fort Worth residents to enjoy the holiday.
He encourages Fort Worthians to seek out the city’s permitted firework shows, like Fort Worth’s Fourth at Panther Island Pavilion, instead of buying and setting off fireworks within city limits.
Last year’s show on Panther Island was called off because of drought conditions. For this year’s event, organizers have pre-planned and looked at different options in case the same issue occurs again, he said.
“I expect everything to get put together,” Harrison said.
Hot, dry weather and fireworks are a combination that could create — and possibly worsen — grass fires.
To date, the National Weather Service forecasts that the high will be 95 on the Fourth of July.