The Union Recorder

July 4, 2014

Fire officials offer fireworks safety tips

Felicia Cummings
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Fireworks add a sparkle of fun to Fourth of July festivities, but it’s important to know how to properly handle them to avoid serious injuries.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 11,400 fireworks-related injuries occurred in 2013. Of these, 65 percent occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4.

“They may be pretty to look at but improper handling of them can be dangerous,” said Tom Dietrich, fire chief of the Milledgeville Fire Department.

He suggests that local residents educate themselves first on what fireworks are actually legal in Georgia.

Sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks devices are legal in the state, but consumers may be confused when they discover certain types of fireworks on sale at local retail outlets near the state’s borders.

“Sparklers and fountains are not classified as fireworks by law and are the only types that are legal in the state of Georgia,” said Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens via press release.

The sale and use of most consumer types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs is still illegal in Georgia and punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

Secondly, Dietrich suggests handling fireworks with the utmost care, particularly sparklers.

“One common injury that we’ve come across in the past involves children and the misuse of sparklers,” Dietrich said.

He said it is important to never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks, especially alone.

He reminds everyone that only adults should light fireworks and to always have adult supervision around children with sparklers.

“Although festive, sparklers are still fire and should be handled carefully. They should never be placed near your body. They may seem harmless but they can reach very hot temperatures,” Dietrich said.

Hudgens said sparklers burn at temperatures as high as 1800 degrees.

When extinguishing a sparkler, Dietrich said to never throw it on the ground.

“The grass or shrubbery can easily catch fire from a sparkler. It’s best to have a bucket with water in it close by in order to put them out.”

He also recommends reading all directions that come with sparklers and fountains.

“Read caution labels and directions in their entirety before lightning them and never try to re-light a firework.”

Hudgens said that in a typical year, two-thirds to three-fourths of all fireworks injuries occur during the four-week period surrounding Independence Day.

On the holiday itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined, he added.