AL­TER AT YOUR OWN RISK

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By BRIAN BURNES and JAMES HART

“It’s a ter­ri­ble idea,” says a lo­cal man who’s got the burns to prove it. Six wind up hurt.

WEs­ti­mated num­ber of fires caused by fire­works each year.

7Direct prop­erty loss caused by fire­works. Sources: Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, Con­sumer Prod­uct Safety Com­mis­sion hen Kimmy Lo­boda heard an ex­plo­sion and felt her Blue Springs home shake Mon­day night, she raced to the front door to see what had hap­pened.

A neigh­bor burst from his home with a blood-soaked cloth over his hand scream­ing that he’d blown his hand off.

Lo­boda ran over and per­suaded him to lie down while she put pres­sure on the hand wound. His jaw looked bro­ken, with his face bat­tered and one eye dam­aged.

It was the sec­ond time in three days that ex­plo­sions rocked sub­ur­ban Kansas City homes and left young peo­ple with se­vere in­juries — all be­cause they wanted to en­gi­neer big­ger bangs from fire­works avail­able at area stands.

A sim­i­lar ex­plo­sion in a Ray­town home on Satur­day sent a woman to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal burn unit.

To­gether, the ex­plo­sions in­jured Es­ti­mated num­ber of in­juries caused by fire­works in 2008. Fire­works-re­lated deaths in 2008.

six peo­ple and served as a jolt­ing re­minder of the down­side of such ill-ad­vised stunts.

Colby John­son, 20, of Bel­ton, who sus­tained sev­eral burns along his back and legs in the Ray­town ex­plo­sion, said he is now sad­der but wiser.

“We don’t want any­one else to have to go through what we are go­ing through right now, hav­ing to see one of our good friends in the burn unit,” John­son said.

John­son’s friend, Kirstie Perry, is re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for se­vere burns at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal, he said. A fund has been es­tab­lished at a Bel­ton bank to help pay her med­i­cal ex­penses.

The in­ci­dents prompted lo­cal pub­lic safety of­fi­cials to is­sue new calls for com­mon sense while area fire­works re­tail­ers pleaded for cus­tomers not to tam­per with their prod­ucts.

“Both ac­ci­dents oc­curred be­cause peo­ple were try­ing to al­ter the way the prod­uct was to be used,” said Nancy Blo­gin, a River­side fire­works dealer who also serves as pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Coun­cil on Fire­works Safety, a Wash­ing­ton­based group of whole­salers and re­tail­ers.

Na­tion­ally, fire­works in­jured 7,000 peo­ple two years ago, ex­perts say. And most in­juries were caused by le­gal fire­works, not those cob­bled to­gether by amateurs.

Ac­cord­ing to Blue Springs po­lice, Mon­day night’s ex­plo­sion oc­curred shortly be­fore 11 p.m. in the 3100 block of S.E. Third Street while two men were wrap­ping mul­ti­ple groups of sparklers to­gether with elec­tri­cal tape.

“It is a way to cre­ate a heck of an ex­plo­sion, and that is cer­tainly what they did,” said De­tec­tive Troy Pharr, Blue Springs po­lice spokesman.

“Sparkler bombs are il­le­gal,” ex­plained Blo­gin, who, with her hus­band, op­er­ates Hon­est John’s Fire­works, a sea­sonal River­side fire­works tent.

Such ac­ci­dents have in­creased in re­cent years, she said, be­cause more fire­works cus­tomers are go­ing on­line and find­ing di­rec­tions on how to as­sem­ble dan­ger­ous de­vices.

But such prac­tices put a time-hon­ored Amer­i­can tra­di­tion in a poor light, she said, and con­ceiv­ably could threaten the in­dus­try. “We want to keep fire­works for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Au­thor­i­ties in Ray­town and Blue Springs were con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate Tues­day.

In Blue Springs, the 21-yearold vic­tim suf­fered ex­treme in­juries to his left hand and arm, with ad­di­tional in­juries to his right eye, po­lice said.

Au­thor­i­ties ob­tained a search war­rant for the home Tues­day morn­ing and were in­ves­ti­gat­ing fur­ther. It wasn’t clear whether charges would be filed in ei­ther in­ci­dent.

The ex­plo­sion, po­lice said, caused one of the ex­te­rior walls to be pushed 3 inches off its foun­da­tion and knocked all of the kitchen cabi­net doors from their frames. The blast in­jured a sec­ond man as well as a woman who also was in­side the home.

The two men were taken to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal. On Tues­day, of­fi­cials at Cen­terpoint Med­i­cal Cen­ter listed one of the men in fair con­di­tion.

Fam­ily mem­bers could not be reached for com­ment.

Though the Blue Springs po- lice con­tacted the Kansas City di­vi­sion of the U.S. Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives, the fed­eral bureau usu­ally is not in­volved with in­ci­dents in­volv­ing con­sumer grade fire­works, said Rich Kight, Kansas City ATF group su­per­vi­sor.

Blue Springs res­i­dents have been able to buy and use con­sumer-grade fire­works for many years, but only un­der spe­cific guide­lines. This year res­i­dents legally can use ap­proved fire­works from July 1 through 4.

In Ray­town, fire­works can be used legally on July 4.

Reg­u­la­tions vary be­tween cities. For ex­am­ple, In­de­pen­dence res­i­dents can use spe­cific fire­works dur­ing par­tic­u­lar hours on July 3, 4 and 5.

John­son, who was in­jured in the Ray­town ex­plo­sion, said this was not the first time he and friends had al­tered fire­works. On Satur­day, he said, he had been try­ing to en­hance “ar­tillery shells” that he had pur­chased at an area fire­works tent.

“These are ar­tillery shells that launch out of tubes, go up in the air and ex­plode,” he said.

“You fig­ure that if one looks cool go­ing off, it would look even bet­ter if you get 10 to­gether. We had done it be­fore with no prob­lems.” Not this time. The re­sult­ing ex­plo­sion, ac­cord­ing to Ray­town po­lice, blew out bed­room win­dows, cracked the ceil­ing and knocked a door off its hinges in a home in the 7200 block of Ash Street.

Perry, suf­fer­ing se­vere burns, was taken to a hos­pi­tal and placed in a med­i­cally-in­duced coma. A sec­ond per­son was treated for in­juries and re­leased.

John­son said he med­i­cal treat­ment.

“I got a few ran­dom burns but it wasn’t any­thing com­pared to what hap­pened to my friend,” he said.

The in­ci­dent has con­vinced him that tam­per­ing with fire­works rep­re­sents a poor choice.

“It’s a ter­ri­ble idea,” John­son said. “They have those warn­ing la­bels on those fire­works for a rea­son.

“I just had to find out the hard way.” To reach Brian Burnes call 816 234-4120 or send e-mail to bburnes@kc­star.com.

re­fused

CHRIS OBERHOLTZ | THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Fire­works stands are up and run­ning, such as Comp­ton’s Fire­works near In­ter­state 35 and Mis­souri 291 in Lib­erty, where rocket-pro­pelled fire­works filled a dis­play Tues­day. Two prom­i­nent ex­plo­sions this week have in­volved peo­ple tam­per­ing with pur­chased...

CHRIS OBERHOLTZ | THE KANSAS CITY STAR

At Comp­ton’s Fire­works near In­ter­state 35 and Mis­souri 291 in Lib­erty, em­ployee Tyler Gray on Tues­day was busy stock­ing the ta­bles full of aerial dis­plays.

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