A fire chief's demonstration of the dangers of fireworks became a teachable moment Tuesday morning when a canister tipped over and shot fireworks into a crowd, injuring a director of a fire safety group.
Laura Barros, assistant executive director of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, suffered a small burn on her left foot. Before heading off to the hospital, Barros said the episode illustrated how dangerous fireworks can be no matter who handles them.
The incident happened during a press conference at alliance headquarters in Mount Prospect, about 20 miles northwest of Chicago.
At the tail end of the conference, Hillside Fire Chief Michael Kuryla demonstrated 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.
Before a crowd of media, fire officials and alliance staff members, one of the canisters tipped over and shot fireworks into the crowd. Barros suffered a small black burn on the top of her foot.
The crowd immediately rushed to her aid, pouring cold water on the burn and calling for an ambulance to take her to an emergency room.
"It happened before I saw it," Barros said. "It felt like a sharp pin, and then like a burn."
Barros said the incident highlights how dangerous fireworks can be.
"This was as safe as you could make it and it still happened," she said, holding her foot up for photographers and television cameras. "My foot would have gone up (in flames) had it been a piece of wood or dry grass."
A visibly shaken Kuryla apologized for the "unfortunate incident."
"We did not mean to hurt anyone," he said. "But it shows that, trained or untrained, (fireworks) are very dangerous."
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