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Greeting 2012 with a blast? Do it safely
Leave fireworks to the pros, area fire officials say
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Sarah Biddy straightens up the firework display at the Kroger store on Thompson Bridge Road on Friday. Only sparklers and small fireworks are legal to sell and use in Georgia. - photo by Tom Reed

Fireworks safety

Fireworks other than sparklers are illegal in Georgia. If you're lighting up for your New Year's celebration, follow these safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety.

• Always read and follow instructions. Always have an adult present.

• Keep burning sparklers away from clothing and flammable objects.

• Only use sparklers outdoors, away from buildings and vehicles.

• Light only one sparkler at a time.

• Alcohol, fireworks and sparklers do not mix. Be responsible.

• Do not point or throw sparklers at another person

• Children under the age of 12 should not handle sparklers.

• When finished, place used sparklers in a bucket of water.

Many people are looking to begin the new year with a bang.

And to accomplish that, many plan to celebrate New Year's Eve by lighting the night sky with fireworks.

With fireworks, though, comes the increased risk of injuries and fires.

Last year, fireworks sparked 102 fires across the state, 12 of them structure fires causing $201,000 in damages, according to figures from the Insurance Department's State Fire Marshal's Office.

Last July 4, Hall County Fire Services responded to multiple woods fires, as well as a porch fire that began as a result of fireworks, Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said.

Firecrackers, rockets, torpedoes, Roman candles, heavy sparklers and bombs are illegal in Georgia and can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and 12 months in jail. Even buying those items in a different state and using them in Georgia is against the law.

The state does allow smaller fireworks, but even something as simple as a sparkler has been known to cause injury.

"Sparklers, considered by many to be the ideal safe firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing," Cagle said in a news release.

Gainesville Fire Marshal Chad Payne said sparklers can reach temperatures up to 1,200F.

"They get very hot, and kids with sparklers are not the safest thing out there," Payne said.

People will inevitably use their own fireworks, but Cagle said he would recommend people avoid using them.

"I do not recommend people use fireworks ... at all. Seek out professional shows. It's not worth the risk of injury or damage to your home," he said.

Cagle recalled an incident that sparked a blaze when a resident disposed of used fireworks in a trash can in his garage.

"I will always remember his statement to me, ‘I thought for sure they were out before I threw them away,'" Cagle recalled. "It's just not worth the risk."

But fire services recommends those who do wish to celebrate New Year's with fireworks ensure they use caution.

"Many home fires are started by the incorrect use of fireworks, and many children have been seriously injured due to a lack of understanding of the dangers presented by fireworks," Cagle said.

Children are urged to avoid using any fireworks, and older children should only use fireworks in the presence of an adult.

The region has experienced a large amount of rainfall in the past two weeks, reducing the dry conditions. Fires often begin when a spark lights dry leaves, grass or other flammable material, Cagle said.

Even in wet conditions, fireworks should still be used only in clear areas and away from any houses or buildings.

In case a fire does spark, a bucket of water should be kept nearby to quickly put out the fire or for fireworks that fail to ignite or explode. Fireworks that malfunction should not be relit to avoid an unexpected explosion that could result in serous injury.

Other people should be out of range prior to lighting fireworks, which should never be lit inside a container, particularly one of glass or metal.

Fireworks that are not in use should be kept separate from those in use to avoid being unintentionally lit.

Homemade fireworks should also not be used.

Once finished, the fireworks should be extinguished and make sure they are not smoldering before leaving the area.

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