New Year’s Eve relatively quiet for first responders


It’s all fun and games — until someone gets hurt.

That statement couldn’t ring more true — especially when ringing in the new year in Hawaii when families and friends come together for a night of festivities that often include potentially hazardous activities such as setting off fireworks.

Despite many opportunities for incident, Hawaii Island appears to have fared well in regard to fireworks-related injuries, with Kona Community Hospital reporting it treated one patient suffering a nonserious injury and the Hawaii Fire Department saying it transported one injured person to Hilo Medical Center. The island also saw no major brush fires or homes lost as a result of fireworks activities.

Kona Community Hospital Emergency Room Nurse Manager Joyce Fukumoto said Wednesday the Kealakekua-based hospital admitted one adult for “not serious” injuries related to fireworks use. She declined to specify the injuries citing patient confidentiality but said the patient was not a child and had received treatment early Tuesday morning.

“We’re thankful to the community for seemingly being responsible,” said Fukumoto. “It really shows people were being careful and indicates they were on top of what they were doing and what their children were doing.”

In all, the emergency room on Monday saw 55 patients and on Tuesday 70 patients, she said — a normal Monday and Tuesday caseload. The hospital also did not handle any patients arriving from major car accidents, she said.

The hospital normally does not increase staffing for New Year’s Eve but does have doctors on-call, if needed, she said. An average New Year’s Eve normally results in four to five fireworks-related injuries.

“It’s not really a night we have to prepare for because we don’t see a lot more visitors than we normally see,” Fukumoto said. “We are always prepared in case we do get some extra, but this year there were very, very few incidents — even less than the previous years.”

The Hawaii Fire Department recorded 15 alarms islandwide between 9 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. Tuesday — the legal time frame when fireworks can be used — of which five were deemed fireworks-related, said Assistant Chief of Fire Operations Aaron Arbles. Six of the alarms were medical-related, however, three required no assistance upon the department’s arrival.

One response involved a patient in the Keaau area who suffered burns to the hands and legs after setting off a homemade firework/bomb device, Arbles said. The patient was taken to Hilo Medical Center for treatment, however, he did not know the severity of the injuries.

The department also responded to three reported structure fires, however, when firefighters arrived they determined there was no fire in any of the cases, Arbles said. Officials said glows from fireworks in the area prompted two of the calls, Arbles said.

Firefighters also responded to a report of a small brush fire in the Kaloko area that apparently extinguished itself before their arrival; a burning shopping cart that contained fireworks rubbish in the Kaumana area, and a dumpster fire at Jack Hall Memorial Housing in Kailua-Kona, Arbles said.

Hawaii Police Department Assistant Chief Henry Tavares said officers responded to 62 calls for service related to fireworks on Monday and Tuesday. That includes responses to complaints of illegal fireworks use.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, four fireworks-related deaths and 9,600 fireworks-related injuries requiring hospital emergency department care were reported nationwide in 2011. The number of injuries is up from 8,600 in 2010 and 8,800 in 2009, but down from 11,000 in 2000 — the highest number of injuries reported since 1996.

School-age children younger than 15 years accounted for approximately 26 percent of those injuries — 40 percent of the injuries were suffered by patients ages 25 to 40.

Forty-six percent of the injuries were to the hands or fingers; 17 percent to the eyes; 17 percent to the head, face or ears and 11 percent to the legs, according to the commission. More than half of the injuries treated were for burns, followed by contusions and lacerations.

The Hawaii Department of Health, for the 2012 New Year’s festivities, reported 25 injuries statewide with two of those occurring on Hawaii Island. There were no deaths reported. The department did not respond for information on this year’s injuries as of press time Wednesday, however, various media outlets across the state reported no deaths.