With the Fourth of July coming up this Friday, those looking to have a good time with fireworks are reminded that they're still illegal in Georgia, excluding sparklers.
While sparklers and similar non-explosive fireworks devices are legal in Georgia, Ralph Hudgens, Georgia's insurance and safety fire commissioner, is urging citizens to use extreme caution to avoid injuries when using legalized fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday.
“Even legal fireworks should only be used with close adult supervision,” he advised. “For the sake of safety and seeing a spectacular display, your best bet is to attend a professional show.”
Fire Inspector Danny Wallace with the Tifton-Tift County Fire Department agrees.
"It's the opinion of the fire department that people don't use them. They cause so many injuries and so many fires that we just prefer that people go to the shows, like what ABAC (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College) is putting on," he said. "But, if you are going to, make sure you get well away from any structures or anything that's overgrown. If you're going to have a spot, it really needs to be concrete or dirt; if not, very closely mowed grass and quite a wide area to make sure that it doesn't start any brush fires, grass fires, which can lead to structure fires."
He said most importantly, they don't want anyone getting injured. He noted some people tend to do fireworks leading up to Fourth of July and even after.
"Sometimes it can go on for two weeks," Wallace said.
According to Hudgens, 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 legal and available for sale or use in Georgia.
The law states that the definition of prohibited fireworks shall not include: “Wire or wood sparklers of 100 grams or less of mixture per item; other sparkling items which are non-explosive and non-aerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes; snake and glow worms; and trick noise makers which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers and drop pops each consisting of 0.25 grains or less of explosive mixture."
Hudgens said sparklers can burn at temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees and must be used properly and with adult supervision.
“Around 8,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for fireworks-related injuries,” he said, “and most of those incidents involve children.”
He added 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 Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined.
The sale and use of most consumer types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, is illegal in Georgia and punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.
In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks related injuries; 55 percent of 2012 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 31 percent were to the head.
The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 15-24, followed by children under 10.
On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
Last year, the local fire department didn't respond to any fire incidents resulting from fireworks.
Those looking to enjoy a professional show of fireworks can visit the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at ABAC Thursday to celebrate Independence Day. The gates open at 6 p.m., and the cost is $10 per car load. Concessions will be available, as well as various activities. Bring blankets or chairs to set up on the Opry Shelter lawn. Your military ID card will get you into the event at no charge. Alcohol and pets are prohibited.
Also, the city of Enigma and the Enigma Volunteer Fire Department's annual Independence Day celebration will take place Friday at Enigma City Park. Gates open at 10 a.m., and the cost is $3 per person. Children 10 and under get in free. There will be live entertainment, games, vendors, water slides, door prizes and more. Fireworks start at dusk.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.