When Fireworks Safety is Ignored

The Fourth of July is a holiday for most folks, but not for Advanced Bio Treatment.

Alcohol + fireworks + ignorance = tragic accidents that just do NOT have to happen.

While this lethal mix generates substantial business for us, it’s business we’d gladly trade for a little common sense, education, and responsibility. Fireworks Safety requires maturity, a skill set and, without question, sobriety. One careless, ignorant act can result in widespread tragedy and destroy lives—innocent lives like those of five-year-old Tanner and his one-year-old sister Taylor.

Just in time for July 4th celebrations, Georgia passed House Bill 100, which expands permissions to buy fireworks in the state.

The law prohibits people from using fireworks within 100 yards of a gas station. But the law says nothing about storing or igniting fireworks within 100 yards of a person’s own garage, gas-powered equipment, gas cans, and grills.

You’d think common sense would tell you to keep fireworks far away from gasoline and open flames. You’d think.

The city of Atlanta transforms into a world-class red-white-and-blue spectacle on July 4th. The party begins in earnest during the famous Peachtree Road Race, whose invited athletes cross the start line at 7:30 in the morning and whose more casual runners cross the finish line around noon.

The atmosphere is wildly festive. Every news station has video cameras and news crews set up along the route, and footage of the race and the festivities is broadcast on all three news channels for the entire day.

Music blares from huge speaker towers. Thousands of the 80,000 runners dress in outlandish costumes, and many begin partying before they even cross the finish line. Alcohol flows abundantly along the 6.2-mile route that winds along famous Peachtree Street, with local running clubs and other groups setting up “beer stops” and barrels full of bloody Marys on the sidelines and pubs opening at seven in the morning to welcome both spectators and many participants who “pub-crawl” the race.

During and after the race, thousands of runners and spectators gather at the pubs along the route and at the homes of friends who live in the fashionable in-town neighborhoods of Ansley Park, Virginia Highlands, and Morningside, all within walking or biking distance of the Piedmont-Park finish line, to continue the celebration.

There is a celebration on every in-town neighborhood street in Atlanta, literally. At least one.

This year, it rained on and off all day on July 4th, so Ken’s traditional “after-party” in the backyard of his midtown home happened under huge plastic tarps. Tables were set up with typical pot-luck food like salads and casseroles, coolers sat under the tables packed with ice, beer, and wine coolers, and hot dogs and burgers cooked on three charcoal grills which usually would sit on the deck attached to the home, but because of the rain, they were set up on the side of the detached garage under their own tarp.

Ken’s house was known by the locals and the midtown-Atlanta running community as Fourth-of-July Party Central. It was the place to go after the race and the place to see the best amateur fireworks show in town if you wanted to avoid the crushing throngs of revelers and the parking nightmare at the famous Lenox-Square professional fireworks display just a couple of miles north.

Ken’s after-party was a disaster begging to happen, and it didn’t have to beg for long. An inebriated friend horsing around with another inebriated friend slipped in the muddy slush and knocked over one of the grills, which ignited gasoline vapors in the garage, whose door had just been opened by Ken’s wife.

Within seconds, a gas can right inside the garage erupted in flames as dozens of people screamed and scattered. Seconds later, a deafening explosion leveled the garage and destroyed Ken’s SUV, which was parked inside.

The fireworks Ken had stored in the far corner of the garage in preparation for “The Ken Show” later that evening were ignited by the gas-can inferno and the ensuing explosion blew apart Ken’s garage.

What no one yet knew was that Ken’s two children were inside the SUV. Their mother had just strapped them into their car seats, opened the garage door, and was about to step outside to tell Ken she was going to the store for more food.

Both Tanner and Taylor died in the explosion. Ken’s wife was taken by life flight to Grady Memorial Hospital’s burn unit. Hours later, she was listed in critical condition and placed in the ICU. She died nine days later with burns to over 80% of her body.

Fifteen others were injured, four critically. One woman lost a leg.

Ken’s home, forty feet away from the garage, was badly damaged in the blast, and half the wood fence around his backyard burned to the ground.

Advanced Bio Treatment was tasked with the grizzly job of cleaning up the backyard.

By practicing basic fireworks safety, this tragic accident would have been completely preventable, and we want to help you make certain an accident like this never happens to you.

The best fireworks safety you can practice is to leave fireworks displays to licensed pyro-technicians and just enjoy the show. However, if you do choose to put on the show yourself, please learn everything you can about fireworks safety first. We have listed good resources for you at the bottom of this article.

Fireworks Safety Guidelines

Recommended by the National Council on Fireworks Safety and by UK Fireworks Review

  1. NEVER buy fireworks from a private source. Buy them from a licensed source only. Illegal explosives are often wrapped only in brown paper and often lack safety warnings and instructions.
  2. Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  3. Know your fireworks. Read the labels and performance descriptions.
  4. Never give fireworks to children.
  5. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.
  6. Wear safety glasses when using fireworks.
  7. Light one firework at a time and quickly move away.
  8. Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
  9. Never light a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  10. Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  11. Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
  12. Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  13. Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
  14. FAA regulations prohibit the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
  15. Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.
  16. Never store fireworks near flammable materials like oil, gas, or paint.
  17. Always store fireworks in their original packaging.

Did you know . . . ?

Many people consider sparklers safe or innocuous fireworks.

However, sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees F., which is hot enough to melt gold. They are the hottest of all fireworks.

Knowledge is power! Please understand fireworks and fireworks safety before you use them. Please follow the basic recommendations of all experts to make sure your next celebration does not end in a trip to the hospital or worse.

We are Advanced Bio Treatment. We are here for you 24 hours every day of the year. Should you need our services, please call us at 800-295-1684.


Fireworks Safety and Knowledge Resources

National Fire Protection Agency- Fireworks Safety

Kids Health From Nemours – Outdoor Firework Safety

National Council on Fireworks Safety

Pediatric Safety – Top 10 Fireworks Safety Tips


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Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment