Feds Light Dummies on Fire to Warn About Sparklers, Fireworks

CPSC makes video, holds yearly demonstration on the National Mall blowing up mannequins

Screenshot from Fireworks demonstration
July 2, 2015

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) spent almost $20,000 on a video of dummies being blown to bits by fireworks and set on fire by sparklers.

The CPSC, which considers sparklers a menace, held its yearly demonstration on the National Mall last week to raise awareness of the dangers of mostly illegal fireworks.

The demonstration shows a bottle rocket attached to a wire so it flies directly into a mannequin’s eye, a quick match fuse blowing up a watermelon, and a mannequin standing directly over a firework that subsequently blows its head off. The CPSC used an infrared camera to show that temperatures of a sparkler and a blowtorch are similar.

A child mannequin’s dress also catches on fire when her mannequin friend holds a sparkler on it repeatedly.

The federal agency issued a contract to "produce, edit, and distribute video on fireworks safety" on June 16, costing taxpayers $19,044.

A spokesperson for the CPSC confirmed that that contract was for a video news release of the demonstration, which was provided by satellite to television stations across the country.

The CPSC gave the Today Show an exclusive of the event, where a correspondent talked of the "hidden danger" of sparkers. "The CPSC says your children should not be playing with sparklers at all, and if they do there needs to be adult supervision," the reporter said.

"Wow, be heading off to the professional shows—that’s it," said Matt Lauer following the segment, suggesting that one should not personally handle fireworks.

The event cost a total $25,644, including $6,000 to pay vendors, run a generator, and set up staging with a tent, in addition to $600 in administrative costs, according to the CPSC.

Scott Wolfson, communications director for the CPSC, told the Washington Free Beacon that he was "familiar with the publication that you’re writing for," after a press inquiry with the agency. Wolfson said he would give the Free Beacon the numbers for the cost of the event and then "you can contextualize it as you wish."

"The event we’ve done has spanned across Democratic and Republican administrations," he said. "The investment that we make in this event is substantially less now under the current Democratic administration because we don’t do a staged press event anymore."

"This is not just simply to bring out cameras," Wolfson continued. "Each of the demonstrations we show is tied to an actual incident or tragedy that has actually happened somewhere in the United States."

"There’s already been two deaths this week involving fireworks ahead of the Fourth of July," he said, adding that incidents have already occurred that are similar to "the sort of demonstrations we show."

When asked if the sparkler demonstration is based on actual incidents where children try to light other kids on fire, Wolfson said, "As you describe it, it’s not really how it happens."

He then warned that little girls in dresses are not the only ones in danger, but boys who are not wearing dresses.

"You have little kids each handed a sparkler and they’re playing with each other and they’re waving it and they’re in close proximity and the embers, the elements coming off of the sparkler can get on little girls’ dresses—or even clothes of a boy’s, it’s not just restricted, of course, to little girls, boys have been burned," Wolfson said. "If you go on Twitter, and look at the reaction to the tweets that we did, you’ll see parents who have stepped forward in response to our tweets to say, ‘My child got burned.’ This ranks at the top, year in and year out, of the injuries that we track."

Wolfson commented that sparklers should not just be seen as a "part of Americana."

"And again, we try to come up with analogies not for the sake of getting a headline but to help people understand that one may view a sparkler as part of Americana, and what we’re saying is we don’t want your child to end up in the Emergency Room," he said.