Firecrackers are 'like bombs when they go off’, experts warn

By Hilda Van Dyk
05 September 2016

They're made with gunpowder and are often incredibly unstable – so there's no telling what kind of damage they might cause.

They're oh-so-pretty and wonderfully exciting -- what's the harm in buying a few firecrackers for special occasions?

A photo posted by Markus Long (@bockady) on

Even if you know what you're doing, they're extremely dangerous. And when you don't, there's no telling what kind of damage they might cause.

“Firecrackers are explosives. It’s gunpowder. It’s not the kind of thing you should play with,” says Johan Pieterse, spokesperson for Tshwane emergency services.

When a cracker goes off, it’s a lot like when a bomb explodes, he says -- “big and loud.”

“They're a massive issue and incredibly dangerous. When it goes off indoors, the explosion can reach outside. It can also cause a fire.”

“You wouldn’t want it to end up in the wrong hands.”

In Polokwane Kosie Wessels (7), a learner at Piet Hugo Primary school, lost his left hand on Saturday after a firecracker exploded in his hand.

Read more: ‘Look Mommy, my hand is gone!

Johan says each town has its own bylaws when it comes to the sale and use firecrackers. In Pretoria crackers may not be sold to persons under the age of 18, in Polokwane you need to be older than 16 to buy them.

An expert who works with explosives in Polokwane says that people don’t realise how dangerous firecrackers are.

And they're especially dangerous when they get old, because they become unstable.

The expert, who would prefer to remain anonymous because of the nature of his work, says that crackers get shipped in from overseas. People don’t know how long the firecrackers spend on the ship and then in a warehouse before they eventually arrive at a retail store.

Distributors and retailers need to have a special license to sell firecrackers, which are issued by the head inspector of explosive materials. A distributor may only have one ton of firecrackers on their property while a retailer may only stock 500 kg.

Read more: Deaf child lucky not to lose his sight after firework explodes in face

The expert also warns against storing firecrackers in a small room or cupboard because natural elements like humidity can influence the stability of the explosive.

Kosie’s mother, Caroline Strydom, told YOU the little boy had found the firecracker in his sister, Annabelle’s (17) room.  He then went to the front house and lit the firecracker which exploded in his left hand.

One of his fingers was left "hanging by a thread" and doctors were forced to amputate.

According to the expert, firecrackers should only be handled under the supervision of an adult. A child should never be in possession of a firecracker.

“Take special care when working with firecrackers. If your child comes home with a firecracker, find out where they got it. Because that’s the only way to stop the illegal sale of firecrackers,” says Johan.

Read more: How to protect pets frightened by fireworks

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