Firework sales underway, firefighters warn of injury and fire risks

With Fourth of July just around the corner, and firework sales officially kicking off, the Austin Fire Department is reminding the public about firework safety.

“We started out doing this as fun with one stand and now we've got six,” said Danny Turner, manager of Half Off Fireworks. 

Firework sales always take off around this time of year. In fact, people in the U.S. spend about $250 million on pyrotechnics every Fourth of July.

“It'll start ramping up about next weekend and then the Fourth is always, it doesn't matter what day it falls on, it's the busiest day,” Turner said.

But anyone who purchases fireworks better not bring them into Austin city limits.

“The most important thing in Austin for people to know about fireworks is that fireworks are always illegal in the city limits,” said Austin Fire Department battalion Chief Josh Portie. 

Using, selling and possessing fireworks in Austin can result in a fine upwards of $500 and that's if no one got injured in the process.

If a person gets hurt or property gets damaged, police may file charges for felony assault or arson.

“I've seen some nasty injuries. I know they occur, statistics tell us that they happen every year, so if you are in a legal area, in an approved location to do fireworks, be responsible,” Portie said.

Firework injuries are quite common on the Fourth of July. The National Fire Protection Association reports about 12,000 people were treated for firework related injuries at emergency rooms in 2015.

“We see injuries from fireworks every year. Are they great things? Can they be enjoyed? Absolutely. Can they be really dangerous? Absolutely. So being responsible is the key message here,” said Portie.

Another concern when it comes to pyrotechnics is fire danger. There are more fires on a typical Fourth of July than any other day of the year, largely thanks to the colorful explosives.

“This time of the year with fireworks, that always gets us nervous about causing grassfires, but not just grassfires, but structure fires,” Portie said. 

That's why Turner gives this advice to his customers: “When you shoot one of these big cakes that goes off by itself you have to have water on hand so you can wet it down afterwards because the box could reignite.”

But firefighters said the safest way to watch the sky light up in Austin on Independence Day is to leave it to the professionals. 

There are some small scale fireworks that can be used in city limits. They include wooden stick sparklers, smoke bombs, glow worms and poppers.

To report someone setting off fireworks illegally in Austin call 3-1-1.