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Ahead of Fourth of July, officials remind residents of danger posed by illegal fireworks

While the coronavirus pandemic has forced the normal slate of Fourth of July fireworks shows to be canceled, county officials are urging people to stick to a familiar mantra: Leave the fireworks to professionals.

Suffolk County police led a demonstration Thursday morning at the Suffolk County Fire Academy to show the dangers of illegal fireworks. The emergency services team ignited an RV trailer filled with fireworks, setting off a colorful explosion.

“Fireworks do cause a lot of injuries,” said Stuart Cameron, Suffolk PD’s chief of department. “Children account for about 40% of the injuries. … Sparklers are illegal in Nassau and Suffolk counties. People think they are harmless and give them to very young children and they do cause a lot of severe, second-degree burn injuries.”

He said the smaller fireworks like firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers cause the most injuries.

“People don’t think they’re harmful and they may give them to children,” he said.

Chief Cameron said Suffolk police have seen an increase in complaints about fireworks, although he did not have a specific figure. He did say the figure was nowhere near the 400% increase reported in Nassau County. The New York Times reported parts of the city “being inundated with complaints.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said it’s “critically important” to recognize the “potentially disastrous consequences when non-professionals are utilizing illegal fireworks.”

Officials also urged residents who choose to be out on the water this weekend to prioritize safety. The county executive pointed to a recent tragedy in Great South Bay, where two boats collided and a 25-year-old man died.

“A day of weekend fun can quickly turn to tragedy if you are not staying alert and not taking the appropriate caution,” Mr. Bellone said.

Chief Cameron said alcohol is often a common denominator in tragedies.

“If you’re planning on going out to a restaurant or you’re planning on going to any event where alcohol is served, it’s always a good idea to leave your car at home and take a rideshare to the event,” he said.