County residents and visitors for the July 4th holiday weekend are being encouraged to leave the fireworks displays to the professionals.
State law and local ordinances forbid fireworks that are self-propelled or exceed a certain grain of powder, in spite of the holiday tradition of emulating the “bombs bursting in air” celebrated in “The Star Spangled Banner.”
In the City of Rockingham, the law doesn’t take holidays, explained Police Chief Robert Voorhees.
“City ordinance is pretty clear that you cannot possess or set off explosive fireworks in Rockingham - plain and simple,” Voorhees said. “It’s sort of like burning trash - it’s just something we’re not going to allow inside the municipal limits.”
In the county, there aren’t as many ordinances, but residents should still abide by state law.
“We, at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, hope everyone has an enjoyable - and safe - holiday weekend,” RCSO Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge said Friday afternoon. “With that in mind, we ask all our citizens to keep safety practices in mind when setting-off home fireworks displays.”
Gulledge listed several tips including keeping fireworks out of the hands of young children, always follow the safety instructions on the package, keep a supply of water close by to douse any flames and never attempt to relight a dud.
“As enjoyable as fireworks can be, they also can be dangerous and really should be left to the professionals,” Gulledge continued. “Even when you’re watching a professional fireworks display, keep at least 500 feet away for safety purposes and, by all means, immediately leave any area where an untrained amateur is setting off fireworks.”
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, stiffened laws governing fireworks in many parts of the country has led to less injuries by consumers.
In 1976, the APA recorded 11,100 fireworks-related accidents, or 38.3 injuries for every 100,000 pounds of fireworks purchased on the open market. Comparatively, in 2007 there were less than four injuries for every 100,000 pounds.
In the same time period, the amount of fireworks has exploded from 29 million pounds sold to 265.5 million pounds.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety offers the following tips for safety before, during and after a consumer fireworks display.
- Before:Choose an open area away from spectators, homes and buildings and dry vegetation. Use a garden hose to wet down the area before firing.
During: As each device burns out, soak it using a hose or bucket of water.
- After: Place all used items in a covered, fireproof container and leave it outside and away from homes and buildings.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.