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Fireworks pose fire risk

Posted: July 3, 2012 - 11:05pm  |  Updated: July 6, 2012 - 7:56am
Sean Mann and his son Miko, 12, shop for fireworks Kroger. Fireworks can pose safety hazards if handled improperly.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Sean Mann and his son Miko, 12, shop for fireworks Kroger. Fireworks can pose safety hazards if handled improperly.

 

Flashing and sparkling fireworks are among the more anticipated Fourth of July celebrations.

But fire officials worry that the festivities could spark a few unintended fires.

“It’s July. It’s dry, so there’s always that danger,” Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann said.

In 2010, fireworks caused about 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and 14,100 outside and other fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.

More fires are reported on Independence Day than any other day of the year. Fireworks account for about 20 percent of those July 4 fires, according to NFPA.

Drought conditions only exacerbate fire risk associated with fireworks.

The effects of recent heavy rains quickly evaporate in 105-degree heat, leaving the ground and vegetation dry.

“We’re just now starting to see it dry out hard again,” Columbia County Water Utility Director Billy Clayton said. “It’s dry and it’s getting hot.”

Despite recent rains, the area is still several inches below the average annual rainfall, Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker said.

Only certain fireworks are legal in Georgia, including sparklers, snappers, party poppers, glow worms and snakes, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

“Roman candles and any fireworks that shoot into the air before exploding are prohibited,” Morris said.

Deputies likely will issue warnings for illegal fireworks on the first offense and, depending on the severity of the complaint, the fireworks might be seized, he said. Charges will be filed ff there are subsequent violations after a warning, Morris added.

If residents still want to enjoy a home fireworks display, Kuhlmann recommends a few safety precautions. Children should always have adult supervision.

The tip of a legal sparkler burns at 1200 degrees, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns. Glass melts at 900 degrees.

When lighting fireworks, choose an area away from grass, trees, woods and structures, including homes.

“A hard, impervious surface like concrete or asphalt is ideal,” Kuhlmann said.

Because of fireworks, firefighters are prepared for a little extra work, usually more grass fires or similar situations, on or near the Fourth of
July.

“We usually get two or three more calls (than normal), at least,” Kuhlmann said.

FIREWORKS SAFETY TIPS

• Only use legal fireworks.

• Use fireworks outdoors only.

• Always have water handy.

• Use fireworks as intended. Never try to alter or combine them.

• Never relight a “dud.” Wait 20 minutes, then soak in water.

• Don’t consume alcohol while shooting off fireworks

• Designate a shooter. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter. The shooter should wear safety glasses.

• No one under 12 should handle sparklers.

• Never use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives.

 

(Safety tips courtesy: The National Council on Fireworks Safety)

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