This Fourth of July, leave most of the fireworks to the professionals.

Share story

YOU probably don’t know Mike Spencer, but he has advice you should hear: when it comes to fireworks, “leave them to the professionals.”

Spencer lost four fingers playing around a particularly dangerous type of fireworks two years ago. After being airlifted from Montana to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, he had 11 surgeries.

Spencer’s advice is already being ignored around the Puget Sound this year, as whistles and cracks from backyard amateur pyrotechnic displays build toward the July Fourth holiday.

Firework regulations have increased safety in Washington and across the nation. But still, there have been an average of seven deaths a year nationally over the past 15 years, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and an estimated 10,500 injuries last year.

And don’t think you’re quick enough to avoid injury. NFL All-Pro lineman Jason Pierre-Paul lost much of hand to a fireworks explosion in 2015.

A new study by Harborview adds specificity to those grim numbers. They studied the 294 Harborview patients admitted for severe firework injuries over a decade, and found an astonishing portion of adults’ injuries were cause by a single type of firework — a mortar that shoots a shell. State law does not specifically ban sale of mortar-and-shell fireworks, a fact that the Legislature should change.

Statewide, more than 170 municipalities restrict or ban fireworks. In King County, 23 cities impose a ban, including Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, Federal Way and Shoreline. Everett, Tacoma, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, among other cites, also ban fireworks.

For a complete list, consult the Washington State Patrol’s list of fireworks regulations.

The better list to consult is the Washington State Patrol’s roundup of fireworks shows, including the gigantic show at Seattle’s Gas Works Park as well as pyrotechnics glittering across Lake Washington from Kenmore to Renton.

Do yourself, your kids, your neighbors, your firefighters, your surgeons and your dogs a favor this 4th: Leave the dangerous fireworks to the professionals.