Fire officials warn of fireworks’ dangers

jwilliams@macon.comJune 28, 2013 

The lighted fountain fireworks hissed and spouted a stream of sparks that bounced off hot pavement Friday afternoon.

“I think you can see why you wouldn’t want to do that in a grass field,” state Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said.

With the Fourth of July approaching, the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department demonstrated how to safely use nonexplosive fireworks such as sparklers or fountains. Explosive or aerial fireworks are illegal in Georgia.

“Don’t teach your children to do illegal things and stop and buy fireworks in Tennessee, South Carolina or Alabama and bring them back into the state of Georgia,” Hudgens said.

Illegal fireworks pose a much greater risk than legal fireworks, he said. When used incorrectly, the explosion can cost someone a finger -- or worse. The primary risks of sparklers and fountains are fires and burns.

“There’s no comparing the injury from these types of devices to those from Roman candles or cherry bombs,” Hudgens said.

About 8,000 people are treated in the U.S. each year for fireworks-related injuries, and most of them involve children.

Fire Chief Marvin Riggins demonstrated the proper precautions one should take before he lighted the fountains. They should be lit on a concrete surface with a long lighter while wearing safety glasses. There should be a bucket of water on hand, and used fireworks or ones that have not lighted properly should be put in the water before being disposed of. Malfunctioning fireworks that don’t initially light or burn all the way can combust at any time.

“And an adult needs to light them, not kids,” Riggins said.

Hudgens said sparklers should be used correctly. While kids can wave them around, they shouldn’t chase each other with them because they are both sharp and hot (up to 1,800 degrees). He said when he was a youngster, he used to throw sparklers up in the air -- until one caught fire in the Spanish moss of a tree one time.

Riggins said the number of fires in Macon due to fireworks is typically low, and the department usually responds to two or three related fires each Fourth of July weekend.

To contact writer Jaime Williams, call 744-4331.

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