We cant seem to escape the news of out-of-control fires lately. In recent months, droughts and lightening storms have rapidly increased reports of wildfires, property damage and loss of life. During the week of the 4th of July, the risk of more of the same grows exponentially due to the traditional use of fireworks in celebrating Independence day.
The Alabama Department of Public Safety estimates that 2 out of every 5 fires on Independence Day are started by fireworks. Nationally, approximately 10,000 people are treated for fireworks-related injuries on July 4. As law enforcement focus the weight of their attention on the roads due to increased travel on the Fourth, people are left without police oversight, contributing to the unchecked and irresponsible use of fireworks.
While the best advice on avoiding fires caused by fireworks is NOT to light them to begin with, many of us are simply incapable of NOT lighting fireworks on the Fourth – my family included. There are steps to doing so responsibly, however, that we should, and CAN, take this week:
It may seem counter intuitive but the fireworks most likely to cause fires are not large displays that go high in the air but the smaller items that go up less than ten feet. Larger cake style displays go high enough in the air for any sparks to extinguish long before they could hit the ground, but smaller items geared towards kids that spin and shoot sparks close to the ground need to be handled with caution and overseen by adults.
Always take care to only light fireworks on level ground and shore up any smaller fireworks to insure that they don’t tip over. The best place to stage your show is away from tall, dry grasses or trees on a level, cement surface. If you have to light your display on grass or gravel we recommend using a piece of plywood to create a level surface.
Wet the ground in and around the area where you will be setting off your display and always have a fire extinguisher or hose and adequate water supply on hand.
NEVER take fireworks to national forests or park areas! Even in wet years, fireworks are never legal or appropriate in these areas.
NEVER put spent fireworks or “duds” in a campfire. Soak spent fireworks with water and dispose of them only when completely cooled.
Don’t attempt to pick up or relight “duds”. Wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak in a bucket of water before disposal. Buying from a reputable distributor will minimize your chance of purchasing “duds”.
Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a designated sober shooter.
And finally, there is no substitute for good judgment. Don’t tamper with the packaging or design of the firework, use an extended butane lighter to give you distance from the wick, and don’t combine the explosive contents of products to try and improve on the originals. Traditionally, almost 72% of all fireworks injuries are to males, so it might also be wise to let the women handle the fireworks!