Sparklers are typically thought of as the safest of all fireworks. Who hasn’t smiled at the sight of a darling 5-year-old waving her arms in circles as a seemingly harmless shower of glittery light sprays from the end of her sparkler? But bind 500 or 1,000 of those same innocuous sticks of light together and you transform a mildly entertaining party favor into a potentially deadly piece of illegal pyrotechnicnology known as a “sparkler bomb.”
A “rash” of sparkler bombings of portable toilets over the last four weeks has the Missoula Police Department calling on the public to help put an end to the dangerous—not to mention illegal—activity.
“We’ve seen about 15 incidents in the city and some in the county,” says Missoula Police Officer Colin Rose.
There haven’t been any injuries reported in Missoula from the improvised explosives, says Rose, but injuries have occurred in other Montana towns this year.
On July 4, 20-year-old Tyler Stosich, of Lima, suffered a severe neck injury when a homemade sparkler bomb exploded in his direction and flying debris struck him in the neck, paralyzing him.
“We’ve seen some that have actually ripped the plastic [portable toilets] apart and others that have totally destroyed mailboxes,” says Rose.
According to Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, sparklers typically burn at about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Sparklers are not designed to be tightly bound together,” says Heckman. “If you use them in accordance with the instructions, they are quite safe.”
Heckman says about a third of all fireworks-related injuries are attributable to illegal explosives such as M-80s or cherry bombs. Sparkler bombs are a new trend, she says.
“I’m very concerned to hear that there’s been a series of those types of incidents in [Missoula]. The industry does not condone the misuse of legitimate product in that fashion. It puts a black eye on an industry that has worked very, very hard to improve products to reduce overall injuries,” says Heckman.