It’s illegal to light fireworks within city limits, but apparently the threat of a hefty fine isn’t enough to deter all Missoula residents from striking a match.

For the last several nights, I have fallen asleep to the sound of explosives being detonated outside of my window. The noise is kind of a nuisance, but what really keeps me awake is the worry over someone getting hurt.

The thing about fireworks is that they are fast and unpredictable. Once you light the fuse, you have very little control over what happens next. They don’t always shoot straight up into the sky, and a wayward explosive could do some serious damage in a residential area.

But even in a rural setting, there is nothing safe about fireworks, especially in the hands of people who have not been professionally trained. The risk of danger is even higher for children.

Each year, thousands of people are treated in emergency rooms across the country for fireworks-related injuries, and about half of them are children under the age of 15.

And it’s not just Roman candles and cherry bombs that lead to ER visits — even sparklers are dangerous. They might seem innocent enough, but sparklers cause the majority of fireworks injuries in children under the age of 5. They burn at very high temperatures — up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—and produce sparks that can burn skin, light clothes and hair on fire and cause permanent eye damage.

While attending public Fourth of July fireworks displays — such as the one at Southgate Mall in Missoula — is much safer, many people will still head out of town to have their own fireworks fun. If you plan to light fireworks this Fourth of July, remember these safety tips:

· Always follow the instructions on the label.

· Light one firework at a time.

· Do not let small children touch or light fireworks.

· Do not relight “duds” (fireworks that do not go off).

· Make sure you are clear of trees, dry foliage, buildings and other flammable structures.

· Have water nearby in case of emergency.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.