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"It just blew": Stay safe around fireworks this Fourth of July

Fireworks Safety

Firework displays are a staple of Fourth of July celebrations. But if handled improperly, well-meaning fun can turn dangerous in seconds.

In fact, injuries due to fireworks skyrocket this time of year, with thousands of people nationwide winding up in the emergency room on or around the holiday.

This year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission set up reenactments of actual accidents involving fireworks to show how dangerous they can be.

The group says there were 11 deaths and nearly 12,000 emergency room visits in 2015 resulting from fireworks accidents, the highest number in 15 years. The most severe accidents occur when people attempt to make their own fireworks, and anyone can be a victim, the group warns.

Firefighter Curtis Shidler now has an artificial left eye after an accident last year when a firework hit him in the face.

"I wish I'd been paying more attention," he told CBS News. "As soon as it hit me in the cheek, I knew I was in trouble because everything went black."

Children often suffer serious injuries from sparklers, which can burn at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees.

Hand injuries are also common. New York Giants football player Jason Pierre Paul blew off two fingers and part of his thumb when a firework exploded in his hand last year. "It just blew off in my hand," he said.

Now, he's warning others. "Keep fireworks away from kids," he stressed.

Safety experts say the best advice is to leave professional grade fireworks to the professionals.

If you do use fireworks at home, use common sense and follow the safety instructions. Dr. Jay McCollum, director of emergency services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offered the following tips to HealthDay:

  • Always make sure fireworks are supervised and never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before using them. Read and follow all manufacturers' warnings and instructions. Shoot fireworks on a clean, flat surface away from the house or flammable materials.
  • Keep a source of water close by in case of fire or another mishap. Light fireworks one at a time, and then move back quickly. Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never use bottle rockets and never throw fireworks at another person.
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