For some, a single metal fire sparkler is seen as a harmless way of showing patriotic spirit — safe enough in the hands of small children.
However, according to McPherson fire chief Jeff Deal, those sparklers can easily become a shrapnel bomb, and can cause serious damage to bystanders.
This is done by taping large groups of sparklers together, confining the gas released from the sparkler within the tape. As pressure builds within the central location, the metal bursts, sending dozens of shrapnel shards in a 360 degree rotation.
Deal said there were nine reported incidents of metal sparklers used as shrapnel bombs last year.
“By the grace of God, nobody was injured,” Deal said.
The proposed amendment would apply to regulations regarding the sale and discharge of fireworks within the city limits. If accepted, the amendment will place metal sparklers on the list of illegal fireworks within city limits, right alongside bottle rockets and sky lanterns.
Deal said the sparklers also present a fire hazard, noting the intense heat that a metal sparkler generates.
“You’re basically putting a mini-welding torch into the hand of a 3 year old,” Deal said. “How we don’t have more issues with them is beyond me.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports metal sparklers can burn as hot as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to melt metal.
Deal said while the heat is short-lived from the shrapnel after the blast, the shrapnel is still molten-hot, and can start a fire in the right conditions. Many fireworks dealers have already begun recognizing the safety concerns of the sparklers, and have already pulled them from their shelves.
The amendment will still authorize the sale of bamboo sparklers, which Deal said do not present as great a concern, and is “near impossible” to create a bomb similar to that created with metal sparklers.
City commissioners will review the amendment during city commission next Monday.
Joseph Tuszynski can be reached at email@example.com, or follow him on twitter @JoeTSentinel.