GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The skyrocketing number of firework-related injuries and deaths reported last year has local fire officials urging extreme caution this Fourth of July.

A new report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found a 50% increase in the number of people hurt or killed by fireworks in 2020 compared to 2019. Officials say the surge is likely tied to the pandemic, as many cities canceled public firework shows last summer.

“Like here in Grand Rapids, this Saturday we’re going to have great fireworks show…(where) last year those things didn’t occur,” Lt. Bill Smith with the Grand Rapids Fire Department said. “(Instead), people took their entertainment wants and needs by purchasing their own fireworks and unfortunately some of those people were injured or worse, killed.”

According to the CPSC report, 18 people around the country died from firework-related incidents in 2020 compared to 12 reported in 2019. Additionally, 15,600 people were sent to the hospital for fireworks-related injuries in 2020 compared to 10,000 people the previous year.  

Though professional fireworks displays are set to make a big return this Fourth of July, fire officials are still urging extreme caution for those planning to light off their own fireworks.  

One of the top safety tips: Never allow kids to play with fireworks, including sparklers.  

“Lots of times we see kids running around with sparklers, that’s not a good idea,” Smith said. “Those things burn above 1,200 degrees.”

His second safety reminder is geared towards adults.  

“If you’re drinking, no fireworks,” Smith said.  

Nearly half of the people that died last year from fireworks-related injuries used alcohol or drugs beforehand, according to the CPSC report.

Officials encourage people to pick a non-intoxicated person to be the designated person in charge of the fireworks display.  

Smith said his final safety tip is as simple as it is important:

“Please read the instructions first before even think about lighting them,” he said.