N.H. Fire Officials Brace for July Fourth Injuries, Fires
Concord — New Hampshire fire officials are braced for the fires and injuries that typically result from people buying and setting off their own fireworks this holiday weekend.
Belmont Fire Chief David Parenti, who heads the New Hampshire Fire Chiefs Association, said people are often drinking and careless when setting off the potentially lethal pyrotechnics.
“You have a lot of people enjoying themselves for the holiday weekend and not necessarily being careful with fireworks,” Parenti said.
He and state fire marshal Bill Degnan say an accident on a Pelham deck two years that sent 13 people to the hospital — five of them children — remains the worst in recent history.
Degnan said that accident happened when a “spinner” sparking firework bounced off the roof of the house and dropped into a box containing more than 300 reloadable mortar-style fireworks on a back deck. Those injured during the explosion were either standing on the deck or an adjacent three-season porch.
The sale of fireworks is legal in New Hampshire, but some municipalities have chosen to ban them. Prominent among them are the Lake Winnipesaukee shoreline communities of Alton, Gilford and Wolfeboro. Nashua, Salem and Berlin are among the larger municipalities that also ban fireworks.
Other communities, such as Newbury, require consumers to get a local permit.
It is illegal in New Hampshire to possess and sell certain fireworks, such as bottle rockets and smoke bombs. But Parenti said they’re abundant nevertheless because people order them online.
New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Sean Haggerty, commander of the explosives, permits and licensing unit, said the state has 24 authorized fireworks retailers and 131 licensed display shooters who can orchestrate and ignite the big shows.
Haggerty said 64 large fireworks displays were scheduled from Wednesday through Sunday. The most — 32 shows — will take place Friday, the Fourth of July, including one at Weirs Beach in Laconia that is scheduled to begin one minute after midnight. Some communities have shifted their displays around in anticipation of stormy weather.
“The display shows are regulated, inspected, professional — so people can enjoy those shows in a safe environment,” Haggerty said. “Backyard shows are just that. They can be dangerous if all the safety requirements aren’t met.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in a report last month, estimates that fireworks-related injuries sent 11,400 people to emergency rooms nationwide last year. Children under age 15 accounted for 40 percent of the injuries, according to the report.
Most states allow some or all types of consumer fireworks. The four that ban them altogether are Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.