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June 20

Orange, cantaloupe, mannequin's hand sacrificed in demonstration of fireworks' danger

Cambridge officials use controlled explosions to get public's attention with Fourth of July festivities approaching.

Cambridge officials exploded a mold of a human hand to demonstrate the importance of firework safety. 

Cambridge officials exploded a mold of a human hand to demonstrate the importance of firework safety. 

Derek Kouyoumjian, Metro

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If Buzzfeed and officials in Cambridge have anything in common, it’s that both know the best way to get our attention these days is to blow something up.

That’s why the police and fire departments in the city staged a controlled explosion, in an effort to spread awareness about the dangers of fireworks on the first official day of summer.

Sacrificed this year to the destructive force of a detonated blasting cap: a cantaloupe, an orange and a mold of a human hand attached to a clothing store mannequin.

"We put them in the fruit because fruit has the consistency of human flesh and muscle and tissue," said Steve Ahern, Cambridge police deputy superintendent. "We give these demonstrations because when you see the damage of the fruit, you can just understand if a child had a firecracker or some other type of explosive in their hand, what it really can do to the human body. It's just a real bad day, its a tragedy if this were to happen. And it happens every year."

The orange disintigrated, spraying its fragrant zest into the breeze. The cantaloupe broke into large chunks, which flopped to the ground.

The most dramatic explosion was saved for the poor mannequin. The blast tore his palm and fingers to shreds and left a sizeable hole in his shorts at crotch-level. At his feet sat a pile of blood-red goop (ballistic gel). A stream of fake blood ran down his plastic leg.

RELATED: Cambridge police: leave fireworks to the pros

Don't let that happen to you, officials said Monday.

“Every year,” said Cambridge Fire Chief Gerald Reardon said, “people get seriously injured: burns, loss of vision, loss of hearing and especially hand injuries.”

Fireworks are unreliable, officials said. They can go off unexpectedly, or have so much extra gunpowder in them that they pack a bigger punch than one might anticipate.

So amateurs looking to spruce up a cookout with some loud bangs and colorful flames inevitably end up burning or gravely wounding themselves every summer.

Fireworks caused 775 fire and explosions in the state over the past decade, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, causing about $1.8 million in fire damage.

Fireworks, of course, are illegal in Massachusetts. Even sparklers and party poppers are against the law here. The penalty is $10-$100 dollars for possession and $100-$1,000 for distribution.

But that doesn’t stop hordes of scofflaws every year from bringing combustible entertainment back from out of state.

A cantaloupe exploded into chunks in Cambridge on Monday as part of a demonstration on the dangers of fireworks.

A cantaloupe exploded into chunks in Cambridge on Monday as part of a demonstration on the dangers of fireworks.

Derek Kouyoumjian/Metro

Photo:

The destructive power of fireworks is no joke. Last year, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul mangled his hand in a July 4 accident.

Two young boys in Dorchester were injured in an explosion last summer, as was a man in Saugus and a man in Maine, who died of his injuries.

On Monday, Ryan also took the beginning-of-summer stunt as an opportunity to talk about the season’s other perils: water, windows and overheated cars.

Children can drown in just 2-3 inches of water, she said. Accidents can happen quickly (in just 20-30 seconds) and silently (people who are drowning don’t yell and flail their arms around like in movies , so parents should keep a close watch at all times on young swimmers. As many as 5,000 are killed or injured each year in water-related accidents, she said.

Open windows can also be a threat to little ones. About 14 children a day are injured falling out windows, sometimes through screens that can pop out easily. 

And Ryan issued a reminder to parents and pet owners not to leave vulnerable kids or animals in cars on hot days, even with the windows rolled down. To demonstrate, Cambridge police left one of their cruisers baking in the sun, then tested it with a heat-detecting gun. After about an hour, the car’s interior was at a sweltering 167 degrees.

Basically it was a pretty bad day to be a mannequin in Cambridge.

Basically it was a pretty bad day to be a mannequin in Cambridge.

Derek Kouyoumjian/Metro

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