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(MCT)—Fourth of July might mean fireworks and family fun, but the holiday also means a spike in injuries.

John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County, Fla., Fire Rescue, said when he’s asked about fireworks safety, “Our top recommendation is always leave the fireworks to the professionals.”

“I think a lot of people just underestimate the true danger of fireworks,” Mulhall says.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual fireworks report released last week, there were about 9,600 fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2011 and four fireworks-related deaths, up from about 8,600 fireworks-related injuries in 2010.

And children younger than 15 accounted for about a quarter of the injuries last year.

Andrew Yeagley runs an independent fireworks stand near Colonial Drive and Fairvilla Road. Mortar fireworks — which generally consist of a tube and reloadable artillery shells that are lit and fired one at a time — are bestsellers, he says.

But people should be careful to let the mortar tubes cool down after use, Yeagley said.

Even handheld sparklers require care.

According to the commission report, sparklers accounted for almost 18 percent of fireworks-related injuries during the holiday period.

“They’re hot, and they give them to little kids,” Yeagley says.

The tips of handheld sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Fire Protection Association. To put that in perspective, consider this: Water boils at 212 degrees and glass melts at 900 degrees.

Andy Nicholls has owned Orlando Special Effects for more than 20 years, and he has worked in the special-effects and fireworks industry for about 30 years.

Nicholls said people should buy their fireworks from reputable retailers and avoid homemade fireworks. Common sense goes a long way, he said — accidents usually happen when people are drinking.

Nicholls has two other basic safety tips: “Prevent the device from falling over, and never put any part of your body over the device.”

Tips to stay safe this Fourth of July:
• Adults should always supervise fireworks activities.
• Light fireworks one at a time, and back up from the fireworks after lighting them.
• Never point or shoot fireworks at another person or an animal.
• Don’t try to relight or pick up fireworks that didn’t work when first lit.
• Keep a hose or bucket of water nearby in case of emergency, and make sure fireworks are completely extinguished after use.

Source: Sentinel research

©2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services