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Doctors, police prepare for fireworks do-it-yourselfers

Published: Friday, June 27, 2014 8:38 p.m. CDT

Firecrackers and gunshots sound a lot alike. Sometimes they can do the same amount of damage.

Unless you’re a commercial pyrotechnician, state law prohibits buying or using all fireworks except for sparklers and nonexplosive “novelties” such as smoking snakes and poppers. Iowa is the only other state in the country with such restrictions.

“And we probably see more burns from sparklers than anything else ... because they’re legal fireworks,” Dr. John Williamson said.

Williamson, an emergency physician at Morris Hospital, said the hospital sees several fireworks-related injuries each year as Independence Day approaches.

“A lot of people who set them off don’t realize how hot they get and how dangerous they are. Anything that’s shot up in the air can explode,” Williamson said.

Burns are the most common, but doctors also see numerous hand wounds. One area man lost an eye a few years ago after setting off a roman candle, Williamson said.

Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said the city receives an increase in complaints in the days leading up to July Fourth.

“It’s the illegal ones [making] loud noises and bangs that get reported – usually right after dark,” Dite said.

Channahon Police Chief Jeff Wold said officers usually arrive to find incriminating debris in the street, but no suspects in the first evenings of July.

But on the night itself, extra officers are on patrol from when the park district fireworks show ends until about 2 a.m. to investigate complaints, Wold said. Channahon will have even more police out this year since there will likely be more parties than usual with the Fourth falling on a Friday and starting off a holiday weekend.

“I think it’s an equal split between teenagers with bottle rockets and adults with expensive fireworks that would rival the park district’s show,” Wold said.

Any unused fireworks found by officers are confiscated and later turned over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

“Just save your money from the illegal purchase and potential fine. The free [community] shows are better and safer,” Wold suggested.

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