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GOVERNMENT advises caution with holiday fireworks

Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans should view fireworks from a distance to prevent Fourth of July festivities from turning into a trip to the emergency room, federal safety officials said Thursday.

About 11,000 people were injured by fireworks last year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in its annual warning. That number was up from 8,500 in 1999, most likely because of increased fireworks shows during millennium celebrations.

``Detonating these devices is best left to the professionals,'' safety commission Chairwoman Ann Brown said. ``Even fireworks that seem innocent can cause serious injury.''

Brown noted in a statement that the sparklers often used by young children burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees. Nearly half of those injured last year were younger than 15, the commission said.

Using fireworks improperly or setting off illegal fireworks can cause deaths, blindings, amputations and severe burns, the agency said. M-80s, cherry bombs and quarter sticks are so explosive they have been banned since 1966.

The agency, working with the Customs Service, has seized more than 400 million unsafe fireworks at U.S. docks since 1988.

The government said that if consumers live where fireworks are legal and plan to use them, they should:

_Never allow children to play with fireworks.

_Read and follow all fireworks warnings and instructions.

_Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.

_Never try to relight fireworks that haven't fully functioned.

_Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of accident or fire.

_Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from houses, dry leaves and flammable materials.
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