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Experts urge leaving fireworks to the pros
Luis and Jessenia Suarez browse through the selection of fireworks at the TNT Fireworks tent set up at Walmart in Gainesville. Georgia law allows wire or wood sparklers with 100 grams or less of mixture per item and other sparkling items, as long as they are not explosive and do not fly through the air and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes.

Fireworks have long been a staple of July Fourth celebrations but the Hall County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Gainesville Fire Department are encouraging the public to leave them to the professionals.

Both departments released notices last week in an attempt to educate the public on the dangers of fireworks.

The majority of fireworks injuries occur during the four weeks surrounding Independence Day. Many of those injured are children. On the Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined, according to a notice from the Gainesville Fire Department.

“Many fireworks burn at over 1,000 degrees. They can cause burns, extremity injuries, blow up in your hands or cause property damage,” said Scott Cagle, Hall County fire marshal.

“As for property damage caused by fireworks, whether it is a woods fire, grass fire or structure fire, I have seen them all in Hall County,” he said.

In Georgia, all aerial and exploding fireworks, including firecrackers, are illegal for nonprofessional use, and possession of illegal fireworks can result in a fine and possible jail time.

“A general rule of thumb is that mostly just sparklers are legal,” Cagle said. “Also if you have to go out of the state to buy fireworks, that is a pretty good indication that they are not legal in Georgia.”

Cagle suggests buying fireworks from big-box stores, such as Walmart, to avoid mistakenly buying illegal fireworks.

“Some establishments will have tents set up in their parking lot to sell fireworks out of. All of these tents have permits and have been inspected,” he said.

However, even legal fireworks are dangerous.

“Even with Georgia legal fireworks, we have seen kids with second- and third-degree burns,” said Cagle.

“Children are more susceptible to burns and to higher-degree burns than adults,” said Gainesville Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough. “Even though (some fireworks) are legal, (children) need to be supervised by an adult.”

The tip of a sparkler burns at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to cause third-degree burns, and nearly 90 percent of emergency room fireworks injuries involve fireworks consumers are permitted to use, according to the city Fire Department.

“We don’t want July Fourth to be remembered as the time you had to take your child to the emergency room or to a burn unit,” Cagle said. “We recommend that you just watch professional shows.”

There will be several professional shows in the area, including the American Legion fireworks display at Laurel Park in Gainesville, Sterling on the Lake’s display in Flowery Branch, Sparks in the Park in Dawsonville, the Mall of Georgia’s Fabulous Fourth celebration and the Red, White and Luau celebration at LanierWorld.

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