Observe precautions when lighting fireworks. Chief Ienn advises that fireworks be placed on level, solid ground. Gravel, dirt, or grass can sometimes be soft or uneven, which may cause rockets to tip over while firing. If a grassy area is the only place available, lay down a flat, wooden board from which to launch your fireworks. Chief Ienn also advises against the use of matches to light fireworks. Instead, he recommends using a multipurpose lighter. Make sure your hands and face are not directly over the firework while you’re lighting the fuse. Once it’s lit, join spectators at a safe distance. Never attempt to re-light a firework if it does not ignite the first time.

Be aware of your surroundings. Plan where people will be sitting and the direction in which aerial fireworks will be firing beforehand. When purchasing any type of firework, keep the size of your space in mind and determine required spectator distances beforehand so you don’t bring home something you shouldn’t be lighting. Make sure onlookers are a safe distance away. Chief Ienn says that proper distancing of crowds from displays depends on how the area you’re using is situated and what you’re lighting. Required spectator distances vary depending on what’s being lit. For example, crowds should stand at least 15 feet away from burning cones and fountains. Check labels for the required safety distances of each unit. In general, fireworks should be placed far enough away so that if they tip over, their flames won’t reach any spectators. Also, make sure you are not lighting fireworks near combustible materials, such as newspapers, gasoline, or dried leaves. Never ignite fireworks indoors, and always set them off away from buildings and houses.

Keep children away. Children should not handle fireworks and should be kept under strict adult supervision when viewing them. "Teach your children proper firework spectator safety and supervise them closely," says Apel. Fireworks can be fun and entertaining for children—as long as they are kept at a safe distance and understand how powerful fireworks are and how dangerous they can be when used improperly.

Learn what to do in the event of an injury. Before you light fireworks, familiarize yourself with first-aid information and advice from medical professionals, which can be found through online resources. The Mayo Clinic website offers a wealth of information about basic first aid. (You can also read more about first aid for household injuries from This Old House.) If you have any questions as to the severity of the injury or the injury appears to need professional medical attention, call 911 or take the injured person to a hospital emergency room right away.

For more information about fireworks safety, watch the fireworks safety video on the National Council on Fireworks Safety website. But, given the risks involved with consumer fireworks, you might want to simply be a spectator this Fourth of July. Kick back, stay safe, and let the professionals handle the thrilling explosions.
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