By Tom Kleinhelter

Dubois County Sheriff

The Fourth of July is a holiday filled with fun, food and fireworks. While fireworks add joy and beauty to the celebration of our nation's birth, they must be handled with care to avoid injury or even death.

The National Safety Council statistics find that eight people were killed in fireworks accidents. Another 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical attention.

Fireworks can cause costly and devastating property damage as well. According to the NFPA, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and 16,900 outside and other fires.

Now that many Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and many communities have lifted restrictions, community fireworks displays will light up the night sky in many areas. This is the safest way to enjoy fireworks.

However, many people choose to set off fireworks at their home with family and friends. If you choose this option, there are safety precautions you should follow. First and foremost, make sure it's legal to purchase and set off fireworks in your area.

The NSC offers these tips for fireworks safety:

• Never allow young children to handle or be near fireworks.

• Older children should use them only under close adult supervision.

• Never use fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

• Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.

• Never hold lighted fireworks in your hand.

• Only use them away from people, houses and flammable material.

• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Only light one device at a time and maintain a safe distance after lighting.

• Never attempt to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks.

• Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.

• Keep a bucket of water nearby to extinguish fireworks that don't go off or to use in case of fire.

• Never use illegal fireworks.

Don't forget that sparklers are not a safe option for children. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing and cause injury if dropped.

Sparklers are responsible for 25% of fireworks-related emergency room visits and account for about 50% of injuries in children under age 5. Glow sticks are a fun and safe alternative to sparklers.

Remember, fireworks are fun and add sparkle to a Fourth of July celebration, but extreme caution is necessary to ensure safety for all. If you have any questions about fireworks safety, please contact the Dubois County Sheriff's Office at 812-482-3522. In case of an emergency, call 911.