“One slipup can lead to significant injury or death,” Pell City Assistant Fire Chief Mike Burdett said. “I encourage people to attend the fireworks show by the lake.”
The Pell City Parks and Recreation Department holds a professional fireworks display each Fourth of July at the Pell City Sports Complex, next to Lakeside Park. The show starts at 9 p.m.
However, officials know people are going to buy and shoot fireworks on the Fourth of July — it’s a tradition.
“The exciting tradition of celebrating our nation’s birthday on the Fourth of July with outdoor fun, including fireworks, is an old and happy one,” state fire marshal Stephen Holmes said. “Whether your Independence Day plans include a large, professionally designed fireworks display or your family setting off a small amount of fireworks, the tradition continues.”
He said fireworks can be dangerous, but they can also be safe and fun, if handled safely and if people remember to follow simple safety rules and obey state laws.
But each year, people are injured and killed because of fireworks.
The National Fire Protection Association discourages the use of consumer fireworks and encourages the public to attend professional fireworks shows.
According to the NFPA, there was an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and 14,100 outside and other fires in 2010 that were related to the use of consumer fireworks.
“These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries and $36 million in direct property damage,” NFPA reported. “In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks related injuries; 57 percent of 2010 emergency room fireworks related injuries were to the extremities and 37 percent were to the head.”
NFPA officials also said the risk of fireworks injury is highest among children ages 5-14.
NFPA officials report that in a typical year, there are far more fires reported on Independence Day than any other day of the year.
Holmes said all businesses that sell fireworks are licensed and inspected by the State Fire Marshal’s office.
Officials said in most Alabama cities it is legal to sell and use fireworks.
“The biggest thing when using fireworks is having adult supervision,” Sylacauga Fire Chief Matt Missildine said.
He said it is important people use common sense and follow the manufacturer’s directions for each fireworks.
Missildine said it is also important people pay close attention where they use fireworks, especially when it’s been so dry in recent months.
He pointed out that if something happened, such as a fire or injury, the incident could carry liabilities.
“Having water close by is not a license for irresponsibility,” Missildine said. “But we worry more about injuries than we do about fires. I would definitely recommend not using (consumer) fireworks. I realize it’s fun, but people sometimes forget the dangers.”
Holmes said some common sense rules and laws people should heed when shooting fireworks include not discharging fireworks within 600 feet of any enclosed building, never shooting fireworks into or from a motor vehicle, and never shooting fireworks toward people. Alabama fireworks laws make each of these activities illegal.
“Fireworks can be a source of great family entertainment, but they burn very hot,” Holmes said. “… Always light fireworks on a hard, flat and level surface to ensure stability. Grass will not support items nor provide the stability needed to shoot fireworks in a safe manner.”
Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley said most of his department’s complaints come from residents reporting people shooting fireworks late at night.
He said people who use consumer fireworks need to be respectful of their neighbors and shoot their fireworks at a reasonable hour.
Turley also said it is unsafe and unwise to shoot fireworks from a boat, especially when there are a lot of people around, like there are at the city’s fireworks show.
“Never mix alcohol with fireworks,” he said.
Wednesday, the Talladega City Parks and Recreation Department is also holding a professional fireworks show just after dark at Veterans Memorial Park.
“The best way to avoid an injury is to attend a professional fireworks celebration operated by trained, licensed professionals,” Talladega Fire Chief Danny Warwick said. “… I am encouraging all residents of Talladega to attend the fireworks display at Veterans Memorial Park on July 4, 2012, instead of conducting consumer fireworks celebrations. I believe that it will prove advantageous for the consumer and reduce the risk of grass and brush fires, which can rapidly spread, posing a risk of land and structure fires.”
The Alabama Forestry Commission has also issued warnings about outdoor burning and fireworks.
"We want everyone to enjoy their celebration, but we also urge the use of extreme caution with all debris burning and outdoor fires, including campfires and fireworks," said state forester Linda Casey. "It is very dry in parts of the state, and the tornadoes of 2011 left thousands of acres of downed and damaged trees in their wake, creating a wildfire hazard in much of north Alabama. Conditions are such that any fire can quickly spread out of control, threatening lives and property."
She said to avoid shooting fireworks in or near dry grass, leaves or other combustible materials.
"Thoroughly soak the area with water where fireworks are to be discharged, and have a garden hose or other source of water nearby," Casey said.
She said if a fire does start, it is strongly recommended that people not attempt to fight it themselves, but immediately call 911, then wait in a safe place for the arrival of the local volunteer fire department.
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