GRAHAM, Wash. — With major fireworks shows canceled due to COVID-19, firefighters worry this could be one of the most dangerous Fourth of July holidays on record.
“We always joke that it’s the busiest day of the year and, I think, one day we ran 67 calls in a 24-hour period,” said Matthew Black, Graham Fire & Rescue battalion chief.
This year it's shaping up to possibly be even busier.
“[There are] a lot of factors that I want us to be prepared for,” said Chief Pat Dale, with Graham Fire & Rescue.
The weather has been warm and dry. Fourth of July falls on a Saturday and, to top it off, COVID-19 concerns have forced the cancellation of many professional fireworks shows.
“I think people are ready for an outlet to enjoy and relax and make the best of this summer, so just do it safely,” Black said.
Fireworks can do damage. In the past, they’ve ignited brush fires, set homes on fire and seriously hurt people.
“I’ve seen a loss of an eye. I’ve seen a loss of a finger,” Dale said.
“He lost three of his fingers because he lit the firework, thought he could throw it and didn’t,” Black said.
Graham Fire & Rescue personnel expect to see more backyard Fourth of July fireworks displays, so they filmed a public service announcement Thursday morning.
In the video, firefighters show people how to safely light fireworks and explain what is and what isn't legal to set off in Pierce County.
“An old rule of thumb is, if it’s something that goes up or blows up, then it probably won’t be legal outside of the reservation,” said Cole Roberts, Pierce County deputy fire marshal.
Firefighters also want to make sure people properly clean up, which includes submerging fireworks in water. Hot fireworks can cause house and garage fires if not cooled and disposed of correctly.
“The kindling is set. It’s ready to burn, so let’s be extra safe,”Black said.
In Pierce County, people can legally buy fireworks beginning Sunday. The window for when people can light fireworks depends on their local city regulations.