Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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36 blazes tied to fireworks

By Mary Vorsino


Oahu first responders saw a busy kickoff to the new year, going out to three dozen fires and at least five injuries that were probably fireworks-related, as revelers not only rang in 2011 but also got their fill of consumer fireworks before a new ban took effect today.

The most serious fireworks injury left a man in critical condition after an aerial firework exploded in his hand.

Last New Year's, there were three fireworks-related injuries.

While celebrations to ring in 2011 were in full swing, there were 36 calls to fire dispatch categorized as probably fireworks-related. The calls included two structure fires, four brush fires and 16 rubbish fires.

The totals are an estimate, and fire officials say the figure will likely increase as fire inspectors wrap up cases.

After last New Year's, 30 probable fireworks-related fires were reported.

Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman, said recent soggy weather probably helped a bad situation from getting worse.

"We saw an increase in nuisance fires," he said, adding that across Oahu firefighters spotted "quite a number of aerials" going off.

Aerial fireworks have been illegal for years.

Starting today, all consumer fireworks except firecrackers are also banned on Oahu.

Officials said illegal aerials were linked to at least four injuries on New Year's Eve.

In addition to the man critically injured in Pearl City, a woman and two children were injured when an aerial exploded 10 feet from them. They suffered serious to minor burns and were taken to a hospital. In a third incident, a man suffered minor burns when a "Jumping Jack" firework went off in his hand. He refused to be transported to a hospital.

Paramedics also responded to 27 calls of people in respiratory distress. About half of those appeared to be fireworks-related.

"It was a very busy night," said James Ireland, Emergency Services Department acting director. He added that the totals do not include people who drove themselves to the hospital.

Meanwhile, an illegal aerial firework is believed to be the cause of a blaze that caused $15,000 in damage to a storage unit at a Kaneohe home on New Year's Eve. Witnesses said they saw the illegal aerial hit the storage unit adjacent to the home.

The firework apparently burned through the plastic roof and ignited the contents inside.

Neighbors used garden hoses to battle the fire until firefighters arrived.

About an hour later, sparklers ignited a fire in the downstairs storage unit of an Oahu home.

The sparklers were apparently dropped and rolled down a flight of stairs.

The fire, extinguished at 9:59 p.m., caused an estimated $750 in damage.

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