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SoCal trauma centers: A typical July 4th for fireworks injuries

File photo of July 4th fireworks.
brownpau via Flickr
File photo of July 4th fireworks.

At least three Southern Californians suffered severe hand injuries in fireworks accidents over the July Fourth weekend, but several regional trauma centers said their caseloads indicated it was a fairly typical Independence Day holiday.

A 9-year-old Compton girl lost her left hand and some fingers on her right hand Saturday in an accident likely caused by illegal fireworks, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

In Long Beach, a 17-year-old boy lost part of his right hand Monday when a firework he was handling exploded, said Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Brian Fisk. 

In Orange County, a 21-year-old Santa Ana man suffered severe hand injuries Monday while handling an illegal firework, said Orange County Fire Authority Captain Larry Kurtz. The man was one of 10 fireworks victims seen at UC Irvine Medical Center, according to hospital spokesman John Murray. In a typical year the trauma center sees five or six such injuries, he said.

UC Irvine was the only one of nine regional trauma centers contacted by KPCC that reported a higher-than-usual number of fireworks-related injuries. Seven trauma centers said they saw the usual number, which ranged from zero to two. They said most of the injuries were mild to moderate. 

Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Santa Clarita saw a drop in fireworks injuries in its emergency room on July Fourth, according to ER Dr. Bud Lawrence.

A couple of years ago the hospital saw five to 10, but this year there were only two, said Lawrence — one minor burn and one cut eyebrow caused by firework debris. 

He attributed the decline to stepped up enforcement by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station deployed eight deputies to patrol neighborhoods identified as likely problem areas based on last year's illegal fireworks activity, said Sgt. Michael Wright. 

Neighbors were also more proactive than usual, said Wright, who ran the enforcement operation. The station got 289 fireworks-related calls, nearly twice as many as last year, he said.

"Perhaps people who were more tolerant of their neighbors shooting off fireworks are becoming more sensitive because of the long term drought issues and concerns about brush fires," said Wright.

The Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station confiscated about 200 pounds of illegal fireworks, he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Santa Clarita Valley. KPCC regrets the error.