PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – We’re just days away from the Fourth of July weekend filled with grilling, drinking and fireworks. But all that fun can lead to serious injuries.

As the risk of fireworks injuries skyrockets this weekend, KDKA wanted to know what it looks like on the inside of West Penn’s Burn Center. How are doctors preparing for an uptick in patients?

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It’s quiet inside Tuesday, but not for long.

“Most of them happen to hands and fingers, almost 30 percent of the injuries,” said Dr. Ariel Aballay.

When fireworks spark a serious burn, Dr. Aballay gets a call.

He took our cameras directly into the unit where his team will stabilize Fourth of July burn patients.

“The current protocol is to clean the wounds as much as possible. As you pointed out, some of these patients are going to be in severe pain, so we have to take that into account,” he said.

The room offers everything needed for serious burns, from medication dispensers and hoses for hydration to a special blue surface covered in plastic.

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(Photo: KDKA)

“Our burn unit has a total of 14 beds,” said Aballay. “In case of major casualties we have what is called the surge capacity, the ability to bring more patients and it goes to 21 patients.”

Men fill these beds more than women. In fact, the American Burn Association says two-thirds of fireworks injuries happen to men.

And fireworks sales across the state doubled between 2019 and 2020.

“At the same time, the total number of injuries has risen from about 10,000 in 2019 to over 15,000 in 2020,” Aballay said.

He’s speaking out, hoping he won’t need to call in extra staff.

“However, we have some members of the team that could be called in case a major accident takes place and all of a sudden we need more resources,” he said.

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Another warning: don’t think sparklers are harmless. They can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt metal. Keep a bucket of water nearby and supervise your little ones.

Meghan Schiller