The 4th of July is right around the corner, and people are stocking up on food to grill and fireworks to decorate the sky. Fun aside, a day of red, white and blue shouldn't include a trip to the emergency room. 

If you do end up in the ER, you may run into Dr. Timothy W. Westlake of ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital. 

Westlake has seen his share of patients with burns, trauma from a blast, tissue damage and injuries to eyes and ears. 

"Even with $10 fireworks, injuries can happen," he said. 

The emergency room sees more firework-related injuries during warmer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Westlake added that sometimes doctors will see a few fireworks-related injuries on New Year's Eve.  

Westlake noted he has seen a decrease in firework-related injuries recently. People are becoming more aware of safety issues, Westlake said.  

While fireworks can hurt anyone, the majority of patients he sees with such injuries are teenage boys. 

Those setting off fireworks are not the only ones at risk. Westlake said a firework could also injure bystanders.

Westlake said people can still have fun but it comes down to common sense. He stressed that drinking and setting off fireworks is not a good mix. He also suggested wearing safety glasses to protect your eyes when setting off fireworks. 

"Never relight a dud; fireworks are like little bombs," he added. 

Westlake encourages adults to keep kids away from where fireworks are being lit; spectators should stay in a safe area. 

Westlake said he thinks fireworks are different from when he was a kid and have more energy to them.

But it's not just the big, showy fireworks that are risky, Even a red hot wire sparkler can harm someone. Westlake knows that firsthand, as one of his children was hurt by a sparkler at a friend's house.

Besides fireworks, other dangers include bonfires. Westlake explained a child could fall in a pit or someone could be burned after adding gasoline to try to start a fire.

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Promoting safety 

Jean Gramann, owner of Bartolotta Novelties, 162 E. Main St., Palmyra, grew up in the fireworks display business. She said her dad wouldn't even let the kids play with sparklers.  

"I always push the safety aspect; these things (fireworks) are not toys,"  Gramann said. 

She instructs customers to follow the safety directions on the label and keep a safe distance from the firework. Another tip is to not light a firework in a dry area and to have a water hose nearby.

"If the firework doesn't light, never go back and try to relight it. Also never attempt to stop one that is already lit," Gramann said. 

She recalled shooting off 500-gram cakes and not all of them went off; about 45 minutes later the rest did.  

The main takeaway is adult supervision with any firework — including sparklers. Gramann cautioned parents not to let children run around with them. 


In Wisconsin, people older than 18 can buy fireworks. A permit makes it legal to buy and transport fireworks, however not to shoot them off. Gramann explained three-quarters of her products require permits. 

"Anything that goes up in the air and explodes is a permit item," she said. 

Permits can be bought in the store for a small fee. To be able to set the fireworks off, patrons  must visit their municipality to get an additional permit.

Gramann knows some people set them off without a permit but encourages them to get the proper approval.  Review the law at bit.ly/fireworks-law.
Fun side of fireworks

Business at the store is already picking up as the holiday nears. 

"We sell out every year;, I hope to have another sellout year,"  Gramann said. 

Her mission is to carry great products and popular items, even though the store is not huge. 

Trends in consumer fireworks include 500-gram cakes, she said. Once it is lit, the firework does a show by itself.  Other items she recommends are artillery shells and the Excalibur artillery shell.

Also popular are the the 200-gram cakes for gender reveal fireworks, and Safe & Sane products, which are sparklers, snakes, smoke balls and snaps. 

Stay safe

Not sure what's legal? Visit bit.ly/fireworks-law


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