MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the most popular week of the year for fireworks. And as fun as they can be to watch, one St. Louis Park man experienced them this week in the worst of ways.

Victor Valdez burned his back while he was camping with friends in Le Sueur. After a friend set off fireworks, a shell burned through his tent as he slept and burned his back, leg and the bottom of his foot as it exploded.

He is out of the hospital and says he now understands why there are so many warnings this time of year.

In Minnesota, shooting fireworks off the ground is only for the pros. And in Wisconsin, if fireworks leave the ground, they must be permitted.

Safety precautions didn’t use to be much of a concern for Valdez.

“I liked them from a distance,” he said.

But experiencing one up close changed his vantage point.

“The magnitude of this mortar — I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It was like the movies. There was a white light, I could see my shadow, and then I heard nothing. It was just that pitch when you lose your hearing.”

(courtesy of Victor Valdez)

(courtesy of Victor Valdez)

Friends pulled him from his burning tent, covered with second-degree burns. His friend had set off the mortar and accidentally lost control, something the experts say happens.

fireworks victim

(courtesy of Victor Valdez)

“Those fireworks are really indiscriminate,” said Bruce Gordon, communications director at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. “They can fly any which way.”

Gordon said fireworks that fly are illegal, but if someone does set them off, he says to get away, far away.

“I’d be concerned if anyone was firing illegal fireworks in the area I was in,” he said.

As for the legal ones, he says sparklers have the highest injury rate in the state. DPS suggests using a long-stem lighter, holding sparklers away from you and, once they go out, tossing them in a bucket of water.

Valdez said he will be heeding these types of tips in a whole new way.

“It gives you a deeper understanding that that is some serious power that can hurt you,” he said.

Valdez is expected to be all right. He is still under a doctor’s care.

Follow these links to brush up on fireworks laws in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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