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Light the fuse safely on 2013
Even fireworks legal in Ga. can start fires, authorities warn
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Fireworks safety tips

  • Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Adults should be the only ones handling fireworks.
  • Never try to relight a “dud” firework.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher, bucket of water or garden hose handy.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in the area by purchasing inside state lines.
  • Light fireworks on a clear concrete surface away from vegetation.
  • Light one firework at a time and move back quickly.
  • Never throw used fireworks in the trash.
  • Submerge used fireworks in water for 20 minutes before discarding.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages while lighting fireworks.
  • Never hold a child while holding a sparkler.
  • Teach children not to wave or run around with sparklers.
  • Never throw a sparkler.
  • Remain standing while holding a lit sparkler.
  • Don’t hold or light more than one sparkler at a time.
  • When finished, soak the sparkler in a bucket of water before discarding.

Source: Gainesville Fire Department and The National Council on Fireworks Safety, www.fireworksafety.com

Rather than ringing in the new year, a lot of people choose to celebrate with a bang or a boom.

If you’re planning to celebrate New Year’s Day with fireworks, you can make sure the year gets started on a good note by keeping safety and the law in mind.

Most fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs are illegal in Georgia.

The maximum punishment for the sale or use of illegal fireworks is a fine of up to $1,000 or a sentence of up to one year in jail, according to the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

Gainesville Interim Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough said people can avoid buying illegal fireworks by shopping inside the state. Most firework vendors in Georgia sell only approved fireworks.

“If you’re going across state lines to purchase something, you’re probably getting illegal stuff,” Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough said it can be difficult to enforce the rules. Neighborhood watch programs often report any fireworks to the authorities if there is a problem.

“It takes an effort between the police department and somebody calling in letting us know that certain things are going off,” Yarbrough said. “But anything in Georgia that booms or rockets is illegal.”

He said the legal fireworks are basically sparklers, which still can be hazardous and start fires.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the end of sparkler can reach temperatures up to 2,000 degrees, enough to melt certain metals and cause third-degree burns.

Yarbrough urges parents and other adults to keep children from holding sparklers.

“These sparkers burn hot,” Yarbrough said. “They burn hot enough to set your clothes on fire. They burn hot enough to set dry vegetation on fire.”

Though some rain has fallen in the area recently, leaves and plants still could be dry enough to catch fire, he cautions.

Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said in an email three dangerous incidents in Hall County involved fireworks last year. Fortunately, none were serious and only caused grass fires.

Since some people will inevitably cross state lines to purchase illegal fireworks, Yarbrough said it’s important to keep safety in mind. People should be careful to only light fireworks on a concrete surface, not on grass or leaves that could ignite.

“You shoot one of these illegal fireworks and it rockets into a wooded area, it’s a possibility you could get a fire started from that,” Yarbrough said.

If the celebration involves alcohol, fireworks should only be handled by a sober adult.

Kimbrell said alcohol frequently plays a factor in firework-related injuries.

“However, we do not track that statistic because it’s not illegal to use fireworks under the influence ... just not smart to,” Kimbrell said.

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