I have a potentially tragic but fun story for you. Back when I was on Facebook, I ran across photos posted by a couple I know. Like many young couples, this pair dealt with too many bills and insufficient cash to cover them. It was a stressful situation.

However, one of their posts surprised me around the first day of July. The post read, “Here’s what $1,500 worth of fireworks look like.” The photo shows the man standing with his young son in front of stacks of boxes. You know, firework boxes with “keep away from flame” warnings printed on the side. Unfortunately, the pair had stacked the flammable boxes next to the furnace.

The good news is that the pair survived and were able to load up on fireworks again the next year. The not-so-good news is that the family was out $1,500 that could have gone toward paying bills or building an emergency fund.

As shocked as I may have been that anyone would shell out $1,500 for fireworks, this couple was not alone.

Shooting up like a bottle rocket

The amount of money Americans spend on fireworks each year has shot up. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), we spent $2.3 billion on fireworks in 2022.

Just as surprising is how much Americans spent on fireworks in 2020, the first year of pandemic-related lockdowns. Despite social distancing rules and mask mandates, those who love the 4th of July came together to spend $1.9 billion on fireworks.

Looking back, we see that $407 million was spent on firecrackers, sparklers, Roman candles, cherry bombs, and other celebratory explosives. Ten years later, spending increased to $636 million, despite how many Americans say they don’t have enough money in the bank to cover a basic emergency. In 2019, the total hit the $1 billion mark; as of last year, it’s more than doubled.

Medical expenses

Of course, it wouldn’t be the 4th of July without someone losing a finger or two. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), firework-related injuries shot up by 25% between 2006 and 2021.

Last year alone, there were an estimated 11,500 emergency room visits for injuries related to fireworks, including 11 deaths. Here are the most commonly injured body parts:

  • Eyes:16%
  • Head, face, and ears: 19%
  • Hands and fingers: 29%
  • Trunk and other: 12%
  • Legs: 19%

Given the complexity of some injuries and whether a patient is moved from the E.R. to a regular hospital room, it is impossible to estimate how much was spent on medical care. The medical expense was likely a burden for some. Unless an insurance policy covers the cost, the patient or their family is responsible for pulling money out of their savings account or using a credit card to pay the hospital bill.

Avoiding injury

The CPSC offers these tips for those who wish to avoid injury and the subsequent visit to the emergency room:

  • Do not allow children to ignite or play with fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers burn at a temperature of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep the garden hose or a bucket of water nearby in case of fire.
  • Only light one firework at a time, then move away quickly.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Do not put any part of your body over a firework as you light the fuse.
  • Never point a firework at anyone.
  • Once a firework is completely burned out, soak it with water before throwing it away.
  • Only set off fireworks labeled for consumer use (rather than professional).
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before making the purchase.
  • Never use fireworks if you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol.

For many of us, the 4th of July brings back some great memories of time with friends and family. Whether you plan to shoot off your own fireworks or watch a public display, do it safely.

Oh, and you might want to avoid stacking fireworks around a red-hot furnace.

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