VERIFY: Can static electricity set off fireworks?

A local woman blames static electricity for setting off fireworks, killing her sister. We test that claim.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Fireworks safety is important on July Fourth, but one Bay area woman is sending out a special warning. She says static electricity set off mortars in her sister’s home three years ago, killing her.

After listening to Tracy Appleton's story ,we set out to verify that claim.

“She was folding towels in her bedroom," Appleton says of her sister, Kathryn Flint. "The mortars were in her bedroom. the static electricity got one of the fuses (and) they all went off. She couldn’t get out, (and it) burned 100 percent of her body."

Flint, 49, died the next day, leaving behind five children and twice as many grandkids.

Appleton says the state fire marshal says a cigarette found in an ashtray could have caused the mortars to fire off too, but the family believes it was static electricity.

Can static electricity set off mortars or other fireworks?

“Static electricity cannot set off consumer-grade fireworks,” says fireworks expert Dustin Luer from Sky King Fireworks in Sarasota.

“These are Class C 1.4 fireworks we sell as retailers to customers. (It's) not possible to set off one of those with static charge.”

How difficult is it to accidentally set of fireworks these days?

“It’s pretty impossible to accidentally set off fireworks," Luer says. "{We have lots of protective features on fireworks now. All products are completely covered. We have fuse protectors on every item now. You have to deliberately peel back the cover to expose the fuse then deliberately take fire to that fuse to set it off."

He says Class B fireworks could be set off easily, but those are illegal for consumers.

“People who bring in Class B items are the real pyro-technicians who are very good at what they do, very safe. They’re regulated by the government (and they) have bunkers to store those items.”

July 4th is a day for celebration but not for Appleton’s family. “No, not anymore," says Appleton. "It’s a memory of a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened.”

 So can static electricity accidentally set off fireworks? Our expert says that all depends on the class of fireworks.

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SOURCE:

Sky King Fireworks

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