SAN JOSE -- Anthony Urquidez admits he's set off illegal fireworks with friends and family in the past, but he never purchased any himself. Until this year.

He now wishes he hadn't.

The 29-year-old San Jose construction worker bought fireworks for a Fourth of July celebration in Tracy with his fiancee and her family. In a split second decision that night, Urguidez became an example of why firefighters and police warn the public not to use fireworks of any kind and in the process put his livelihood in jeopardy

It was just before midnight July 4, and he had one M-1000 firecracker left. The M-1000 is a roughly 6-inch, cylindrical pyrotechnic that is one of most powerful firecrackers on the market.

San Jose resident Anthony Urquidez, 29, recovers from a Fourth of July fireworks accident; Stanford Medical Center, July 11, 2014.
San Jose resident Anthony Urquidez, 29, recovers from a Fourth of July fireworks accident; Stanford Medical Center, July 11, 2014. (LiPo Ching, Bay Area News Group)

As Urquidez approached the firecracker, he saw the fuse was short. He lit it anyway.

"Sure enough, it blew right in my hand," he said. "I am regretting that purchase now. First time I get them and look what happens."

Urquidez said as he emerged from a cloud of smoke, his fiancee pointed at his hand. His left thumb was missing, in pieces on the street corner. Part of his left pointer finger was also blown off, his eyebrows and eyelashes were singed off and his shirt and right hand were burned.

He rushed to Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, where he said he was "leaking blood." He was then transported to Stanford Hospital, where he said he has sat in a bed for a week recuperating.


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Urquidez said he is not proud of what he did, and that he knows it could have been far worse. He said rather than try to forget what happened, he wants to be the voice of reason to those who will buy or use fireworks in the future, especially kids.

"Just go see a fireworks show," he said. "It isn't worth it."

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 65 percent of fireworks-related injuries reported in 2013 occurred in the month surrounding Independence Day and resulted in a daily average of 240 trips to emergency rooms across the United States. That includes eight deaths. Hands and fingers were the most injured body parts.

A detail of Anthony Urquidez’s left hand. His thumb is sewn into his waist so tissue and skin can grow around the thumb’s bone.
A detail of Anthony Urquidez's left hand. His thumb is sewn into his waist so tissue and skin can grow around the thumb's bone. (LiPo Ching, Bay Area News Group)

Urquidez was one of at least five people injured in firework-related incidents over the Fourth of July weekend, according to police.

A man in his 40s lost both his hands when fireworks he was holding prematurely exploded, San Jose police said. In Sunnyvale, a mortar-type device blew off the fingers of two men who were trying to light it, officials said. In Santa Cruz, a Livermore 15-year-old severely injured his hand after he lit fireworks that launched shrapnel at his stomach. He was also transported to Stanford Hospital for treatment.

Wednesday, a Gilroy man suffered an injury when a mortar-style device exploded in his right hand as he was lighting it.

San Jose Fire Capt. Cleo Doss said illegal fireworks can come with a host of problems and that the risk you take when you set them off isn't worth it.

Doss said illegal fireworks often are either improperly made or stored and that there is no paper trail to show those who purchase them where they came from. Doss said all those factors increase the risk of injury when they are used by an unsuspecting party.

"You are dealing with an explosive," Doss said. "You don't have a clue what you are getting. Leave it to the professionals."

Contact Katie Nelson at 408-920-5006 and follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.