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The burned hand of a Bayport, Minnesota, man — the result of a sparkler accident last month — is being used to show the danger posed by legal fireworks this Fourth of July weekend. (Photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety)

Celebrate a safe July Fourth

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With the July Fourth approaching, Americans across the country are gearing up to take part in traditional outdoor activities.

Whether plans call for fireworks, grilling or swimming, health experts are offering tips to stay safe this weekend and keep Independence Day a blast.

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“Have fun with your fireworks but be safe and only use the fireworks that are legal in Minnesota,” State Fire Marshal Bruce West said in a news release. “It only takes one incident to cause irreversible damage.”

The State Fire Marshal Division, part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, has teamed with a Bayport, Minnesota, man who suffered burns in a fireworks accident last month to show the kind of damage even legal fireworks can cause.

The 33-year-old man, who was not identified but agreed to let the SFMD use his photos, was reportedly lighting sparklers at a family gathering when an entire pack caught fire and burned his hand. The injury needed treatment at an area hospital.

Sparklers, part of the list of legal fireworks in Minnesota along with snakes, smoke devices and snappers, can reach 1,200 degrees and cause serious burns, the Fire Marshal says.

Minnesota law prohibits the use of firecrackers, sky rockets, bottle rockets and roman candles. Fireworks also may not be used on public property, including roads, alleys, parks or schools.

There were 60 fireworks injuries reported in Minnesota from June 25 to July 15 last year, according to a state survey of hospitals. Of those injured, most were males and under the age of 40.

The Fire Marshal recommends users read the instructions on fireworks, keep them from small children and light them away from animals, buildings and combustibles.

Grilling

An annual cookout is a big part of many Fourth of July celebrations, but improper use of grills can bring injury and fire damage.

Gas grills have the highest risk of causing a house fire, according to the non-profit National Fire Protection Association. The fire safety advocacy group said that gas grills accounted for more than five times as many house fires as charcoal and solid-fuel grills from 2007 to 2011.

Regardless of fuel type, the American Red Cross says to always supervise a grill when in use and to keep it in the open away from the house, deck and tree branches.

Using long-handled tools also reduces the risk of burns, according to the Red Cross.

Swimming

Nearly 700 people were sickened in 44 recreational water outbreaks in Minnesota over the past decade, said state epidemiologist Trisha Robinson in a Minnesota Department of Health news release. Most outbreaks occurred in treated water.

“Chlorinated water is not a guarantee against being exposed to germs in the water,” she said.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the best way to prevent waterborne illnesses is to keep water germ-free. The department offers the following tips for swimmers:

•Don’t swallow pool or lake water

•Practice good hygiene

•Shower with soap before swimming

•Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers

•Don’t swim when you have diarrhea

•Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often

•Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beachside

“Swimming is good exercise, a lifelong activity and a great way to enjoy Minnesota summers,” Robinson said. “We want people to keep swimming. The best way to do that is to keep the water healthy for everyone.”

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Michael Brun
Michael Brun is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program. He has worked for the Republican Eagle since March 2013, covering county government, health and local events. 
(651) 301-7875
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