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WMFD: Practice fireworks safety during 4th of July festivities


Use caution, celebrate responsibly during Independence Day fun

By the Times News Staff

This year, as people gear up for their annual fireworks displays, it is important to remember to do so safely and legally.

Some members of the West Members offered their thoughts on firework safety ahead of the 4th of July: “Celebrating Independence Day with consumer grade fireworks is an American tradition,” said Division Chief Robert Mabe. “Unfortunately, it only takes one small mistake to turn an evening of fun into disaster. Fireworks are explosives, just in a small package. They can cause damage to your hands and eyes.

Fireworks can also do more than cause physical injury.

“They can start brush or structure fires, and cause anguish for veterans with PTSD and animals,” said Mabe. “When using fireworks, always do so sober and with adult supervision in areas free of dead brush. Use them within the hours allowed for by law.

Don't aim fireworks with projectiles at people, vehicles, or buildings. Many of our firefighters enjoy fireworks, too, and want our citizens to be able to enjoy them during this time of celebration.”

EMS Chief Chuck Brakensiek said, “Don't let a good time blow up in your face. Use fireworks outdoors only. Always have water handy.

Never relight a dud firework. Use fireworks as intended.”

The City of West Memphis is also reminding residents to celebrate the holiday in a happy and safe manner, while also following the city's fireworks ordinance.

According to the City Ordinance 1997 passed in 1986,

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Photo courtesy o the City of West Memphis FOURTH

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residents are allowed to discharge fireworks between June 30th and July 10th, as well as between December 20th and January 2nd each year. All residents are expected to clean up any litter afterwards. Anyone violating the ordinance may be charged with a misdemeanor or fined up to $200.

To ensure a safe Fourth of July celebration, here are some fireworks safety tips courtesy of the WMFD:

• Always have adult supervision • Light fireworks away from flammable materials

• Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of a fire

• Keep a safe distance once a firework is lit

• Do not allow young children to handle fireworks

• Do not attempt to relight or pick up misfired fireworks

• Use fireworks outdoors and away from drugs or alcohol

• Avoid holding lit fireworks in your hand or pointing them at people or buildings

• Be courteous to neighbors and consider the time of day

• Keep pets away from fireworks In the unfortunate event of a firework-related injury, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Do not attempt to rinse the eye or apply any ointments, and for minor burns on the hand, wash with cool water for 20 minutes before seeking medical help. With these safety tips in mind, residents can enjoy a fun and festive Fourth of July while also staying safe and legal.

Safety Tips from the UA System Division of Agriculture

Though fireworks are a treasured part of Independence Day celebrations, it’s crucial to adhere to city and county fireworks ordinances and to practice safe handling techniques, especially for parents of young children.

The safest way to view fireworks is to attend a professional show. Jesse Bocksnick, extension 4-H outdoor skills coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said people prepared to take on the risk of legally setting off their own should make safety their main priority.

“It’s as American as apple pie to shoot fireworks around the Fourth of July,” Bocksnick said. “It’s a tradition. Every kid loves to do it, and they ooh and ah, but fireworks are actually really dangerous.


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Everybody gets gung-ho about them, but safety is of the utmost importance.”

City and county ordinances regarding the legality of setting off fireworks vary from area to area. For example, in Little Rock, residents are explicitly prohibited from possessing, selling, manufacturing or using fireworks within the city limits.

Bocksnick said it’s also important to keep an eye out for burn bans in dry areas of the state.

“The main thing I would do if you have any questions – and especially if you’re in a populated area – is get ahold of the county or city and make sure you’re not violating any ordinances,” Bocksnick said.

Ensure quality when buying When it comes to purchasing fireworks, Bocksnick advised buying from a reputable, licensed dealer. “If they’re selling them out of the back of their car, it’s probably not a good place to be getting them,” Bocksnick said. “Trust your gut instinct.

If it doesn’t look like a reputable dealer and something feels a little off, I wouldn’t buy from those folks.”

Bocksnick suggested looking instead for dealers who have built permanent structures, such as warehouses, for their businesses.

“If they’ve invested that much, and they have facilities that are climate controlled, where those fireworks do not draw moisture, they’re likely being handled safely and properly,” he said.

This can also help ensure customers are not purchasing damaged or expired fireworks, which can cause accidents or injury. Bocksnick said this also applies to any fireworks purchased last year and stored at home throughout the year. “If they got wet, if there’s a tear in the package or the fire mechanism looks a bit rotten, don’t use them,” he said. “It’s not worth it. I’ve actually seen one of those go off prematurely, and it’s not funny.

Even if no one gets hurt, it’s still not funny, because you’re dealing with small explosives, and in some cases, large explosives.”

Safety first and foremost Practice common sense and good judgment when using fireworks around children and talk to them about the dangers of improper use, Bocksnick said.

“Make sure they’re age-appropriate,” he said. “When you start handling these fireworks, I wouldn’t just turn a


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4-year-old, a 5-year-old, or a 10-year-old loose with whatever they wanted. Talk to your kids so we can avoid those tragedies that happen every year. Somebody loses their hearing, somebody loses the end of a finger or somebody gets blinded because they get too close to one or it goes off in the wrong area.”

Check package instructions to ensure the firework is pointed in a safe direction, he said.

“Make sure that you know exactly how the firework fires,” Bocksnick said. “Don’t assume that you know exactly which direction it’s going to go, because some say face up or face down, and I’ve seen folks get those backwards when they weren’t paying attention.”

Keep a bucket of water ready, like those used at a gun range, and place devices that don’t explode in the water. Do not try to relight defective devices, and never lean over them.

Even sparklers, often considered safe for children, can cause serious injuries and accidents. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers account for roughly 25 percent of emergency room fireworks injuries. They can burn at up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit in some cases – hotter than the temperature at which glass melts.

That’s why no one should ever hold lighted fireworks in their hands or point fireworks at another person, including bottle rockets and Roman candles.

“That’s a good way to burn and ruin your clothes at least, and at the worst, you could really injure someone,” Bocksnick said. “All kinds of terrible things happen when you start shooting fireworks at each other.”

For families living in neighborhoods and other areas where residents are setting off fireworks from the street or sidewalk, it’s also important to keep a close eye on children who may be running into the street.

“One place that folks like to shoot fireworks off is on a hard, flat surface, so that’s pavement,” Bocksnick said.

“Pavement is the road, most of the time. And when kids are playing in the streets, they’re paying more attention to shooting off fireworks than to staying out the road.”

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