Fewer people are suffering injuries from fireworks in the Bay of Plenty but the figures have not quelled calls to have the public sale of them banned.
ACC figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times show six people made claims after suffering injuries related to fireworks, sparklers, roman candles, Catherine wheels, skyrockets and crackers in 2017. The year prior there were eight people and in 2015 there were seven.
By comparison, just five people claimed for fireworks-related injuries in Rotorua last year. In 2016 there were four, as with 2015.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board's Dr Hugh Lees said people typically sought help for minor burns and eye injuries. Major burns were less common.
Bay of Plenty Coast fire inspector Jon Rewi said there appeared to have been a culture change in recent years.
"If you look at the past three to four years, I haven't had to go to a fire investigation involving fireworks. People are becoming far more aware of fire safety."
However, there was still a risk in the public sale of fireworks, in that people could buy items and store them for other times of the year such as New Year's Eve or weddings, Rewi said.
In 2016, fireworks were blamed for the January fire which scorched a significant part of Mauao.
In New Zealand fireworks are only for sale during the four-day period between November 2 and 5. They can only be bought by people 18 and over.
Eva Tate of Tauranga Animal Rescue, formerly Eva's Animal Rescue, shared Rewi's concern at fireworks being let off on dates other than Guy Fawkes.
Tate said if fireworks were held on just November 5 "then that would be fine, but it's the days before and the days after that really grinds my gears".
"I grew up in a very Chinese orientated culture and in Chinese tradition fireworks are really important. It's a big deal and a big family thing. I love fireworks and I wish my kids could grow up with what I grew up with, but it's not worth it."
Tate, who comes from Hawaii, has responded to countless fireworks-related cases involving animals. Many run away, some were hit by cars while escaping, others became injured and all, Tate said, were terrified.
"My dogs are definitely scared of them, they shake and the cry, it's horrible to watch. They run under the car and under the bed. And I know of horses who have broken through three fences trying to get away."
Tate said some animal owners were willfully ignorant of their pet's wellbeing by failing to tie them up or take some measures to help calm them during fireworks season.
Fireworks were "the most selfish and shallow thing ever", Tate said.
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said each year the animal welfare charity received dozens of calls relating to fireworks issues.
Midgen said many animals had acute hearing so loud bangs terrified them.
The SPCA did not support the private sale and use of fireworks and has long called for a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public. It recommended anyone planning to set fireworks off in their backyard to speak to their neighbours or leave a note in their letterbox so people with pets can prepare accordingly.
"Even if people don't have pets, we ask them to think of their neighbours who might have pets and act considerately," Midgen said.
Fireworks first aid
- Affect an area larger than the palm of the hand.
- Should be cooled as quickly as possible using clean, flowing water for at least ten minutes.
- Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burn, but do not try to remove anything stuck to the burn.
- Call an ambulance immediately.
- Once the wound is cooled, cover the area with cling film lengthways along the burn and never wrapped around a limb or torso.
- If there is a loose foreign body in the eye, rinse carefully using sterile saline or fresh, clean water.
- If there is an object embedded in the eye, do not try to remove it yourself. Cover the eye with a protective pad and seek urgent specialist help. Do not let the victim rub their eye.
- If the victim has experienced a major injury, watch for signs of shock.
- Patients may be pale, cold and clammy, may feel weak and disorientated, and may have a fast, weak pulse and display rapid, shallow breathing. Call 111 if you recognise these symptoms.
- If a patient is in shock lay them down and raise their feet and loosen any clothing that may restrict blood flow.
- Check their breathing and pulse regularly. Keep talking to them to ensure that they remain responsive. Do not give them anything to eat or drink.
Source - Bay of Plenty District Health Board
SPCA's top tips for animals and Guy Fawkes:
- Never let fireworks off close to animals.
- Stay home with your pet – they will be less stressed with someone they trust close by.
- Keep them indoors. Close doors and windows and draw the curtains.
- Make sure that your cat or dog has somewhere comforting to hide.
- Both cats and dogs should be microchipped and have a collar and identification tag with your contact details on it.
- Comfort your pet.
- Move horses and farm animals away from fireworks and make sure all fences are secure.
- Never punish your pets when they are scared.
- Try a compression wrap for dogs, like a thunder shirt.
- Exercise your dog early in the day.
- Don't forget small pets like rabbits, guinea pigs or chickens.
- For some animals, fireworks can be a real phobia and should be treated with medication.