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The "Super Nova"

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- (Names have been changed)

When I was ten years old, my dad's buddy invited us to his house on the Fourth of July.  His name was Tim and he was known as a bit of a show-off.  He always seemed to be doing something crazy for a good laugh. This time in particular, he seemed to be more excited than usual. A few days earlier, he said he invited something and was going to set off fireworks at his house for the holiday. Everyone thought it was only going to be a little show. Well, good-ole Tim was not one to be mediocre, that's for sure!

As it started to get dark, you could see the excitement building in Tim.  He was going to be a showman and keep everyone entertained.  When the time came to set off the first launch, everything was in place and ready to go.  Tim had quite the assortment, everything from bottle-rockets to plain-paper wrapped, full size mortars.  Those of you that have experimented with fireworks in the past, you know what type I mean. These were the "Big ones."

Tim started off with the firecrackers and whipper snappers, and then continued with hoosker doos, hoosker don'ts, cherry bombs, nipsy daisers, with or without the scooter stick, and even some whistlin' kitty chasers. He was building the thrill for everyone, bringing his grand symphony to a crescendo.  When he got to the professional-grade stuff, he had buried one end of three steel tubes in a field nearby to launch them. He set the first big one off.  It launched high into the sky and showered a bright blue star everywhere. Tim kept the rhythm up for about 20 minutes and had about six left for the grand finale.

And then it happened. As he was putting the mortar into the tubes for the finale, he got impatient. As soon as one launched, he dropped the next mortar in to try and get it off quick. On the last one, he didn't wait long enough, the tube was still hot. The mortar was the biggest one. The pipe still had some glowing embers in it and...KABOOM!  The mortar exploded before it was fully in the tube. Sparks showered everywhere.  Everyone gasped, thinking the worse. Tim was lying face-first on the ground. A few rushed to see if he was all right.  Tim was okay.  The mortar had singed some hair and made his ears ring; he was all right if not a little shook up. There was a three-foot crater where it landed, and Tim stared at it in disbelief as he stumbled away.

Tim was a changed man after that, his hearing was not quite what it used to be and he had some burn scars on his cheeks and nose. His showmanship became a little less important when he started to consider what could have happened.

Let's think about something for a minute. A lot of people have seen grisly war photos and videos. Explosions can cause huge amounts of pain and suffering.  A firework is also something that causes an explosion. It is not intended to hurt people, but it is basically the same thing.  And these explosions can cause horrific injuries.  Don't believe me?  Google it sometime.

So what can we do to eliminate or reduce the potential for injuries from fireworks? Here are some safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and El Paso County Sheriff's Office:
· Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
· Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
· Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
· Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
· Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
· Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
· Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
· Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
· Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
· Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
· After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
· Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
· The Tierra Vista Housing Guide, states that [all types of fireworks are prohibited on Schriever Air Force Base.]
· The El Paso County Sheriff's Office reminds everyone to check for the specific rules that are in place where you live, and with your local fire department.
· Should El Paso County go into Open Burning Restrictions, which includes Red Flag days, the sale and use of "permissible" fireworks will be prohibited. 
· A good rule to live by is if the firework flies through the air, explodes or shoots flaming projectiles, they are illegal in Colorado.

For the rest of the summer and upcoming Fourth of July holiday, think about how fast an accident can change everyone's life and leave the professional-grade fireworks to the professionals.  We have all heard the line "Don't be that guy". Learn from this story and don't be like Tim.

For more information, please contact your Schriever Fire Prevention Team at 567-3370.
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