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Photo by Fred Pollard
Alton police display an assortment of fireworks confiscated from residents over a two-day period. One 16-year-old Alton teen suffered a serious hand injury July 5 when a firework exploded in or near his hand.
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ALTON – For one 16-year-old Alton youth, this year’s Fourth of July holiday is nothing to celebrate.
“He was shooting fireworks unsupervised, and a firework went off in his hand,” Alton Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons said. “He may lose the hand.”
At 1:53 a.m. July 5, police were made aware of a minor with a severe injury to his hand. When they arrived in the area of Highland Avenue and Elliot Street, two women were scanning the ground with flashlights, with one woman stating they “were looking for her son’s thumb.”
The boy was first treated at St. Anthony’s Health Center before being transported to St. Louis for treatment.
“Fireworks are illegal in Illinois for a reason,” Simmons said. “This is a serious issue. I know we are right across the river from fireworks stands. We can’t stop people from buying them, but we can stop them from setting them off on our city streets.”
Over a two-day period, the police department confiscated more than 350 pounds of illegal fireworks from around the city. Deputy Fire Chief Mark Harris gives the fireworks a “conservative guess” of $10,000 in value.
“We seize fireworks every year, but this is the biggest haul I have ever seen,” Simmons said.
“Central States Fireworks, who the city has used for the fireworks shows since 1998, has offered to take them off the city’s hands and destroy them for us at their Pleasant Hill bunker,” Harris added. “They are licensed pyrotechnicians, so they will be handled appropriately.”
Alton Police Department Public Information Officer Pfc. Emily Hejna says during the holiday, more calls regarding people shooting off illegal fireworks at private residences come in than the department can keep up with.
“On the Fourth, the department had 56 calls about fireworks between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” she said.
One Dumpster fire was reported in the 700 block of Oakwood and was contained without incident.
Simmons says the department is “on a mission” when it comes to illegal fireworks and implements a no-tolerance policy. He says he hopes the injured teen’s hand can be saved and would like to see his family become a mouthpiece for the city on the dangers of fireworks.
“This unfortunate incident is a perfect example of why these laws were put into effect,” Hejna said. “We will continue to be strict on both the state and city ordinances.”
The Pyrotechnic Use Act, an Illinois state law, says a person cannot possess, sell or use consumer fireworks without a permit. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor. The Alton city ordinance states no private citizen can possess, sell or use illegal fireworks within city limits. Legal fireworks are limited to sparklers, snake or work pellets, and paper or plastic caps containing 0.25 grains or less of explosive compound.
No state violations were written in Alton over the holiday, but several city citations were issued.
Seventy-eight hospitals throughout the state reported 116 people injured from fireworks in 2013, with eyes being the most injured (26).