This weekend marks America's 245th birthday. Communities and individuals all celebrate in different ways on the 4th of July. One of those ways we celebrate is through lighting off fireworks. Whether they are legal or illegal, I'm not here to judge. I enjoy a nice fireworks show, the kind with the big mortars that you see across the state. But no matter how you celebrate, please do it responsibly. I'd hate for you to have to go through what my friend Nick Beheng, and his family, had to go through 9 years ago.

While it wasn't the 4th of July when Nick was setting off illegal mortar fireworks, it was Memorial Day, he was extremely lucky when the mortar he loaded upside down exploded where it did. It tore his thumb off and blasted a hole in his chest, taking part of his heart, collapsing a lung, and losing part of his liver all due to an illegal mortar firework.

The bomb squad was called into the emergency room at the hospital where Nick was taken as they found an unexploded ordinance still in his chest. One inch left or right and Nick would have probably been physically handicapped or even worse. If the firework would have gone higher he might have been blind.

I learned firsthand from my wife, who was actually at the Memorial Day party in which Nick's accident occurred, of just how grave things were initially. Nick admits in the video above that he just wasn't thinking when he was launching the mortars, holding the launch cylinder in his hands.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office has some tips for celebrating the 4th of July safely.

  • Use fireworks responsibly, especially around children. Kids mimic adult behavior.
  • If it flies or explodes, it’s illegal in Minnesota. 
  • Fireworks can be disruptive to neighbors and frightening to pets.
  • Use fireworks outdoors, far from property and crowds. Fireworks caused more than $1 million in property damage last year in Minnesota.
  • Don’t let children or animals run through the area where fireworks are being set off. They could step on a spent firework that is still hot.
  • Sparklers can cause serious burns. Consider glow sticks or light-up wands as an alternative.
  • Use a long lighter meant for a gas grill to light fireworks.
  • Do not try to re-light a dud. Ever.
  • Soak used fireworks in water and leave them outside overnight before discarding them into trash containers.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, at least 78 people went to Minnesota hospitals last year due to a fireworks-related injury.

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