Members of the media and bystanders watched as the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police bomb squad detonated a confiscated homemade firework inside a watermelon, launching pieces of the fruit up to thirty feet away. Just minutes later, a firefighter poured lighter fluid and gasoline onto a lit charcoal grill, sending flames soaring into the air.
While these demonstrations were done in a controlled environment and no one was injured, that is often not the case. UPMC Mercy – home to the region’s only Level I combined trauma and comprehensive burn center – typically sees an increase in serious burns and injuries including loss of vision, fingers, or hands due to fireworks usage, grilling, and campfires over the Independence Day holiday and throughout the summer. Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., medical director of the UPMC Mercy Burn Center, said that nearly 65 percent of the nearly 10,000 fireworks-related injuries happen over a two-week period around the July 4 holiday.
The UPMC Mercy Burn Center joined with the bomb squad, the Allegheny County Fire Marshal, and the City of Pittsburgh EMS to hold this demonstration to educate the public about the dangers of fireworks, encouraging the public to leave the fireworks to the professionals. The burn center is partnering with the City of Pittsburgh EMS and other EMS agencies in the area to provide glow sticks to EMS facilities for distribution to encourage a safe, fun way to celebrate Independence Day. Contact your local EMS department for availability.