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Pro: Fireworks cause avoidable injuries, fires every year

June 27, 2010 at 1:27 a.m.


QUESTION IGNITES AGAIN

Every year, people are injured by fireworks, and fires that are sparked by the sparkly pyrotechnics. Fireworks are banned inside the city limits of Victoria, but people still want to set off fireworks to celebrate America's birthday.

With Independence Day less than a week away, the question ignites again: Should retail fireworks be banned?

SAFETY GUIDELINES

Read and follow directions printed on labels.

Have an adult present.

Buy from reliable sellers.

Use outdoors only.

Have water - a garden hose and bucket - handy.

Never make your own fireworks or experiment by combining them.

Light only one firework at a time.

Never relight a "dud." If it doesn't shoot off, wait 15 or 20 minutes and soak it in a bucket of water.

Never give fireworks to small children.

Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and then tossing them in the trash can.

Never throw fireworks or point them at other people.

Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.

Shooters should wear eye protection and should never have any part of the body over the firework.

Stay away from illegal explosives.

Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter."

Only people age 12 and older should be allowed to handle sparklers of any sort.

Never use homemade fireworks made of illegal explosives. They can kill you.

Source: Ron Pray, Victoria County fire marshal

IN THE CITY

The only fireworks legal to shoot off within city limits are the novelty varieties sold through retail stores, City Fire Marshal John Bradley said, but those still carry risk of injury. People should be careful any time they handle fireworks of any type.

Those who oppose the sale of fireworks have plenty of statistics on their side.

About 7,000 people across the country ended up in the emergency room because of fireworks-related injuries in 2008.

Of those injured, 5,000 occurred within a one-month period around the Fourth of July.

And almost half of those injured, 47 percent, were under the age of 20, according to the U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commission.

Besides injury, fires are also a problem, especially in the dry state of Texas.

Fireworks fires cause about $15 million in damages annually, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

Twenty percent of those damages occur on July Fourth.

Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray said his volunteers respond to at least a few small grass fires every year around the Fourth of July.

Last year, all aerial fireworks were banned because the drought conditions posed too much of a fire threat.

"It's a proven fact that there have been many fires that fireworks have started, but it depends on the conditions," Pray said.

Janell Langley, 24, of Victoria, experienced firsthand what can happen when people shoot off fireworks in dry conditions.

In 1999, two acres of the land she lived on caught fire because of sparklers.

"I lived out on a pasture, and the whole thing caught on fire," Langley said, adding that she thinks the sale of fireworks should be banned if there's a burn notice.

Fireworks are allowed outside the city limits, but even transporting fireworks through Victoria is prohibited and carries a $200 fine.

The 12 fireworks stands in the Victoria area are required to sit 5,000 feet outside the city limits.

But not even these regulations guarantee an injury-free Independence Day.

Dr. John McNeill, who has practiced in Victoria for 10 years, said July Fourth, like most holidays, is busy.

"They're usually burns to the hands and face. Every year we see some," he said.

There are alternatives to selling fireworks to the public.

"Many times, communities will decide to do fireworks shows instead of doing retail sales," said Pray, who does not favor banning retail sale of fireworks.

The city's annual firework show will be at Ethel Lee Tracy Park. The public will be able to watch from Victoria Mall parking lot.

The county will also have Saxet Lakes open in the evening so people can set off fireworks there.

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