ROCKINGHAM — The Fourth of July is nearly upon us once again with its multitude of community celebrations, backyard barbecues, travel, pool parties — and of course, fireworks.
Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind all residents that traffic to and from these events can become problematic quickly.
Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. assembled a list of safety tips for travel, whether your plans involve venturing outside of Richmond County or simply attending one of its many scheduled events.
Clemmons said that while driving, it is best to constantly scan rather than to stare straight ahead to a single point on the road. Also, when passing another vehicle, taking a look at the ground beside its front tire can clue you in to whether that car is about to veer.
He added that glancing farther ahead down the road frequently can help prepare you for cars that might be planning to pass in the oncoming lanes, and that all drivers should signal their intentions with brake lights, turn signals and use of the horn and headlights when appropriate.
“Lastly, I would remind all motorists to practice the Golden Rule when driving,” Clemmons said. “Be courteous and tolerant of other drivers. Please don’t get angry with bad drivers or reckless ones – just get out of their way. Let’s make this summer a safe one on the roads all over the Carolinas.”
Ellerbe Fire Chief Will Barber suggests people attend professional fireworks shows rather than shooting off bottle rockets in the backyard. The Ellerbe Lions Club puts on an elaborate fireworks show every year at the club’s park once the sun goes down.
“We have to have training from the state,” Barber said. “It’s a lot better show than anything you can do at home, and it’s a lot safer, too.”
Barber said that in addition to the risk of serious injury that comes with fireworks launched from home, woods fires are often spawned by that sort of activity.
“The problem we see with personal fireworks is woods fires,” Barber said. “A lot these are started by fireworks, then they quickly get out of control. With the rain we’ve had the past week, we’re hoping that won’t be a problem this year. But the Lions Club display is going to be larger this year than it’s ever been. We got some funding. People will truly be missing out if they don’t come out to see this.”
The city of Hamlet, which also puts on a public fireworks display each year, features family fun during the day leading up to the exploding lights after dark.
Hamlet’s fireworks are ignited on the Hamlet Fairgrounds, allowing them to be seen from several locations around the town. The city recommends Main Street, Hamlet Avenue, Front Street, Hamlet City Lake and Raleigh Street as prime viewing locations.
The Richmond County Health Department’s health educator, Nancy Porter, said common sense and paying a little extra attention can go a long way in staying safe in the near vicinity of fireworks.
“With July Fourth celebrations this week, everyone should remember that fireworks are produced with chemicals that cause explosions and precautions should always be used when fire is involved,” Porter said. “The safest way to celebrate with fireworks is to attend a public display. Each year, Hamlet and Ellerbe both put on a wonderful display. When fire departments ignite fireworks they use pyrotechnic safety measures and everyone can enjoy the show.”
Both the Ellerbe and Hamlet Fourth of July celebrations will take place Saturday, July 4.
Fireworks are also planned Friday evening at Rockingham Dragway as part of the PINKS: All Out race week festival.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.