The Fourth of July can be all fun and games – until someone loses two hands and an eye.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Such was the case three years ago for West Virginia man Jason Henderson, who made his own small yet powerful explosive M-80 fireworks.

All was going well with the instructions he gleaned from and chemicals he ordered off the Internet – until the last batch.

“Something went horribly wrong, ” he says on a YouTube safety video for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (posted below).

Arizona still prohibits consumer fireworks, but that doesn’t mean folks won’t use them anyway.

Fireworks aren’t the only things that can maim during this festive yet hazardous holiday.

The barbecue is a sweet little device, but it can light our unsuspecting bangs on fire as well as wreak havoc on the environment.

Barbecue hazards 101/Ryn Gargulinski

Barbecue hazards 101/Ryn Gargulinski

Yes, starting brush fires is one environmental issue, but another is the air quality. Barbecue grills can pollute the whole world with the flick of a flame, according to the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality.

“Summertime barbecues can be less polluting and better for your health by using propane or natural gas, charcoal chimneys instead of charcoal lighter fluid (and) non-toxic grill cleaners,” PDEQ says.

Even if you hate that oily propane taste in your hamburger, you can start the fire with propane instead of using that awful lighter fluid. Then shut off the propane and let charcoal burn naturally down to its merry little core. Or you can cook with a Far-Log.

Other barbecue hazards include using way too much charcoal, not cooking meat stuff thoroughly or lighting it up with wildlife living in the bottom of it.

A family of mice once took refuge in my parents’ outdoor grill. At least it was better than the time mice thrived in my washing machine, a bat invaded my living room or my pet rat chewed a nest in the leather jacket left on the floor for a couple of weeks.

Please watch out for the animals.

Other pets, too, can suffer during the July 4 holiday, especially if they are terrified of fireworks.

Keep them indoors with some classical music playing, but be forewarned Tucson’s classical station likes to throw in a lot of opera that may be just as frightening as the firework noise.

Brooklyn's Coney Island on July 5/File photo Ryn Gargulinski

Trash pickup in Brooklyn's Coney Island July 5/File photo Ryn Gargulinski

Noisy picnics – or any picnic – can be another danger, especially with the tons of litter they tend to generate. Brooklyn’s Coney Island needs a bulldozer after the holiday.

Go for reusable dishes and cutlery, PDEQ says, so you don’t leave rotting Styrofoam caked with barbecue sauce oozing into our environment.

Don’t set up your blanket on an anthill or sharpened rocks and avoid hanging around any rattlesnake holes.

All these dandy tips will mean nothing, however, if you fall into the biggest July 4 danger of all: dressing like an idiot.

Please refrain from skin-tight flag dresses, flag underwear or flag bikinis. Not only does such clothing border on disrespect for Old Glory, but it is also a waste of money. You’ll only be able to wear the things on patriotic holidays and only then if you don’t mind stares and glares for your stars and stripes.

Instead, invest in some cool comfy clothes in desert neutrals, like khaki or beige. And just for an added layer of safety, make sure the material is not flammable.

[tnivideo caption=”Firework Safety from guy who lost both hands and one eye” credit=”YouTube”][/tnivideo] [tnipoll]


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who never had a flag outfit but does dig red shoes. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail


What do you think?

Have you or anyone you know been injured during July 4 holiday? Please explain.

Have you ever worn flag underwear?