PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On the Fourth of July in 2009 Vincent Fustos was mixing up some homemade fireworks at his home in Hermitage, Mercer County.

Experienced with explosives from his military days, Fustos believed he had taken all the necessary precautions.

A static flash and an instant later, Fustos’s life was changed forever. He lost his left hand, his right hand was badly damaged by the blast and fire, and he suffered third degree burns over 25 percent of his body.

Lucky to be alive, he returned to Mercy Hospital today to implore people not to use homemade fireworks.

“Day to day things like buttoning your shirt, it alters your life completely, I mean, and literally in the blink of an eye. It’s devastating,” Fustos says.

The doctors at Mercy Hospital’s burn unit and the first responders who deal with explosives every day say people underestimate the potential devastation.

Mercy physician Dr. Jenny Ziembicki says even sparklers should be kept away from children.

“They are absolutely not harmless. They are one of the hottest fireworks that you can work with,” Dr Ziembicki said.

A point echoed by Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Deputy Chief Colleen Walz: “They look fun and you can hand them to your child; 2,000 degrees, imagine that temperature on the skin. The result is devastating.”

The fire bureau’s Fireworks Striketeam will hit the streets tonight responding to reports of fireworks being detonated. They will continue their nightly patrols through the July 4th holiday.

Walz says remember, if it flies or explodes, it is illegal to set off in the City of Pittsburgh, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh Fire Department
UPMC Mercy Hospital Burn Unit
More on the July 4th holiday

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