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Use fireworks safely, officials urge

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By Leslie Moore

 

Fireworks are often the highlight of Fourth of July celebrations. But if safety recommendations aren't followed, the celebration can quickly lead to agony.

Joey Rainwater, who is operating a fireworks stand in Campbellsville for Lewis Enterprises, said he urges customers to use common sense when setting off fireworks.

"Some of these fireworks have the potential to take a finger off," Rainwater said.

And smaller does not necessarily mean safer.

Firecrackers and sparklers are popular choices for children and teens, but aren't without risk.

Campbellsville Fire & Rescue Chief Kyle Smith says sparklers are one of the most dangerous types of fireworks.

"But sparklers burn at about 1,800 degrees, which is hot enough to melt a lot of metals," Smith said.

And according to Rainwater, today's firecrackers are more potent than they were several years ago, making them unsafe to handle after being lit.

Drew Cawood, regional manager for USA Fireworks, said customers are advised to follow all safety recommendations written on firework packaging.

"You should not hold anything that you don't have to," Cawood said. "With Roman candles, it's totally a myth that you're supposed to hold them in your hand."

Improper use of Roman candles accounts for many firework-related injuries, even though Cawood says the packaging warns users against holding them.

Although some fireworks are geared toward children, state law requires anyone who purchases fireworks to be 18 or older.

"Ninety percent of the stuff we've got is not appropriate for kids," Rainwater said.

And for the other 10 percent, he says parental supervision is still necessary.

The time of day must also be considered when shooting fireworks, Taylor County Sheriff Allen Newton said, because fireworks can be heard from some distance and might become a nuisance to surrounding neighbors.

"If it's past 11 and we get a complaint, we go out and tell them they're keeping their neighbors up," Newton said.

Newton said most of the time, getting people to stop has not been much of an issue.

"Everybody pretty much complies with us," Newton said.

The sale of fireworks that explode or shoot into the air in Kentucky was made legal in 2011, and Newton said residents were eager to take advantage.

"The first year, everybody was excited about them, but everybody's gotten used to them being legal now," Newton said.

As a result, Newton said, the department received fewer firework-related complaints last year than in 2011.

Fireworks can't be set off within 200 feet of any structure or vehicle, but this law is often ignored. Smith said on a national level, fire departments respond to about 50,000 firework-related incidents every July 4.

Smith said another potential problem often overlooked is the effect fireworks can have on pets and nearby animals.

"Animals have very sensitive ears and can be really frightened and stressed when you're shooting fireworks," Smith said. "So keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run loose or get injured."

If shooting fireworks at home seems like too much of a hassle, there will be a fireworks show at Miller Park sponsored by Citizens Bank as part of the Campbellsville/Taylor County Fourth of July Celebration.

"We want everybody to have fun, but we also want everyone to be safe," Rainwater said. "It's never fun when you're sitting in an emergency room while everyone else is out having a good time barbecuing."

Safety Tips

• Use fireworks outdoors only.

• Always keep a bucket of water or a working water hose nearby.

• Only use fireworks as intended. Do not try to alter them or combine them.

• Never relight a "dud" firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

• Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.

• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated adult shooter."

• Do not use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives - they can kill.

• Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department.

• Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

• Read and follow all instructions on the label.

-State Fire Marshall's office