Fighting forbidden fireworks: ATF shows explosive 4th of July dangers

SEATTLE -- It's that time of year when we celebrate our freedoms, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wants to make sure citizens do so without taking any dangerous liberties.

Cheryl Bishop is with the ATF. She said every year, the bureau sees multiple injuries from people using illegal fireworks.

“I guarantee you year after year after year we either have injuries or fatalities from people either improperly using legal fireworks or people using illegal fireworks,” Bishop said.

And every year, the ATF joins forced with the state fire department to educate first responders, officers of the court and law enforcement on the explosive impact of certain fireworks.  Agency Special Agent Brennan Phillips shows participants different explosives, how they function and where they came from.

“This is basically a bucket full of ping pong ball bombs,” Phillips explained, holding a law string of fireworks out for all law enforcement officials to see.

Though illegal fireworks are definitely a problem, Phillips said, most of the injury issues they have is with people misusing legal fireworks. Cody Ryalls lost his left hand last New Year’s Eve while at a buddy’s house. He said he was excited when his buddy pulled out a big firework.

“He pulled out a large sum of sparklers and it had one strand of tape around it. I was excited and said, ‘let’s finish that beast. Let’s get this thing done,” Ryalls said.

Cody was experienced in using and building fireworks and was even sober. But that didn’t stop his sparkler bomb from exploding two seconds after he lit it. “It blew my hand through a fence, made a hole in the fence of the ladies house next to us. It dropped me to the ground, ripped open my head, shrapnel holes in my legs, shrapnel in my eyes, it blew out both of my ear drums along with my hand as well,” Ryalls said.

This year, the ATF is hoping their message is loud and clear. Just like the illegal fireworks they intend to fight.

"If you're going to use fireworks, use the legal fireworks, safe and sane," Bishop said. "Do not improvise with those fireworks."