Mishap at Fireworks Safety Demo Injures Advocate

A fire chief's demonstration of the dangers of fireworks became a teachable moment Tuesday when a canister tipped over and shot fireworks into a crowd, injuring a fire safety advocate.

The incident occurred during a news conference at the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance headquarters in Mount Prospect. An ambulance took the group's assistant executive director, Laura Barros, to a hospital with a small burn on her foot.

At the tail end of the conference, Hillside Fire Department Chief Michael Kuryla tried to demonstrate the power of legally purchased novelty fireworks by lighting a sparkler and then igniting two fireworks canisters placed on a wooden pallet in the parking lot behind alliance headquarters.

In front of a crowd of news media, fire officials and alliance staff members, one of the canisters tipped over and shot fireworks into the crowd. The one that struck Barros on the top of her left foot left a small, black burn.

Crowd members immediately rushed to Barros' aid, pouring cold water on the burn and calling for an ambulance.

"It happened before I saw it," Barros said. "It felt like a sharp pin and then like a burn."

Barros used the incident as a teaching moment to highlight how dangerous fireworks can be.

"This was as safe as you could make it, and it still happened," she said, holding up her foot so photographers and camera operators could record the injury. "My foot would have gone up (in flames) had it been a piece of wood or dry grass."

Kuryla, visibly shaken, apologized for the "unfortunate incident" and said it was not meant to be part of the demonstration.

"We did not mean to hurt anyone," said Kuryla, who serves as president of the Cook County Fire Chiefs Association. "But it shows that, trained or untrained, (fireworks) are very dangerous."

Copyright 2012 - Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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