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NEWTON, Kan. — Newton Fire/EMS Fire Marshal Andy Harder estimates the most hazardous thing people do on the Fourth of July is holding fireworks in their hands.

Scott Jones knows the pain all too well, KSNW reported.

Last year, Jones was lighting a mortar shell that exploded in his hand, blowing his fingers off his right (dominant) hand. Surgeons at Wesley Medical Center were able to reattach Jones’ thumb, but nearly a year since the life-changing incident, Jones says he continues to have phantom pain in his hand.

Courtesy: Scott Jones

Jones feels anxious approaching the Fourth of July holiday.

“I’ve told a lot of people I will probably be in the basement just trying to watch TV. It’s not the firework’s fault. It was mine. But again, I just want people to be very, very safe,” Jones said.

Fire Marshal Harder says following the manufacturer’s guidelines can give you the safest experience. This rings especially true for neighboring counties, towns and states with different parameters for legal/illegal fireworks.

“Shoot it where you buy it. Everybody has different rules about what can and can’t be sold,” Harder said.

When shooting fireworks, Harder recommends keeping simple items on hand to assist with any emergencies: A hose hooked up to a pressurized water source, a fire extinguisher, a bucket with water and a headlamp are all simple solutions.

Newton was recently hit by weekend storms that downed many tree limbs. Dry grass, brush and limbs can pose hazards if an ember from a firework were to catch a brush pile on fire.

Additionally, using longer punks can prevent quicker-than-anticipated explosions.

“The longer the punk you get, the further away you are. If the fuse messed up and burned really quickly, it could go off close to you. So the longer, the further away you are from a firework, the better off you’re going to be if something was to malfunction,” Harder said.

Over the past year, Jones said many people have connected with him over close-call experiences handling fireworks, with others realizing just how close their brush with tragedy could have been.

He says the situation has transformed his outlook on life to focusing more on serving others.

“Everything happens for a reason. If I can save one finger on one child, just something, that will be worth my fingers,” Jones told KSN last year.

2020 firework injuries in Kansas

In 2020, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, there were a total of 180 injuries caused by fireworks in Kansas. It is an increase from 2019. 

  • Over half of the injuries occurred from fireworks happened on the Fourth of July and most persons received burns
  • The majority of injuries occurred to those between the ages of 25 and 34, but there was also an increase in injuries to those between the ages of 45 and 54
  • The highest number of injuries were caused by mortars or artillery fireworks
  • The person igniting the firework was most likely to be injured and hands were the most common body part to be injured

Data was collected through voluntary reporting from Kansas hospitals and administered by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

For more information on fireworks safety, click here.