Even before Francis Scott Key penned the poem that became "The Star-Spangled Banner," Americans had a love affair with fireworks.
Key wrote as he watched the "rockets’ red glare" during the War of 1812. But it was John Adams, the fledgling nation’s first vice president and second president, who predicted that America’s Independence Day would be celebrated by future generations as a "great anniversary festival."
And Americans’ appetite for the flashy displays continues to grow, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, which says the nation shot off more than 213.2 million pounds of pyrotechnics in 2008, up from 152.2 million pounds in 2000.
Some scientists believe our obsession with fire and explosions can be traced to early man, who depended on fire for cooking, heating and even for camaraderie.
According to widely accepted legend, fireworks were invented by a Chinese chef 2,000 years ago, when he accidentally mixed explosive ingredients together in a bamboo shoot.
Here are some safety tips for handling fireworks:
» Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
» Always read and follow the directions on the label.
» Always have an adult present when handling fireworks.
» Never give fireworks, even sparklers, to young children.
» Use fireworks outdoors in a safe, nonwooded area.
» Have a working garden hose or bucket of water nearby.
» Keep everyone, including spectators, a safe distance away from fireworks.
» Keep pets indoors and away from fireworks.
» Always wear safety glasses when igniting fireworks.
» Light only one firework at a time.
» Never reignite a firework that didn’t light the first time or that has finished its display.
» Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
» Never throw fireworks at another person.
» Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
Source: American Pyrotechnics Association, www.americanpyro.com