Donna Gray’s husband worked for two decades as a naval explosive ordnance disposal technician, but Wednesday the most powerful fireworks she could buy shoots only six feet in the air.
Gray could have been able to buy larger, more powerful fireworks to shoot off with her Twiggs County neighbors for July the Fourth if a bill legalizing them had not failed in the state Legislature during the last session.
Instead, Georgians such as Gray are limited in their Independence Day celebrations with less spectacular types of fireworks such as sparklers and fountains.
Logan Broadnax, who is selling fireworks at a tent at the corner of Riverside Drive and Pierce Avenue, said the bill’s passing would make her job much easier -- especially since she works on commission.
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“Either you’re going to buy them here or go out of (state) and buy it somewhere else,” Broadnax said.
Ralph Hudgens, Georgia’s insurance and safety fire commissioner, said he hopes residents won’t break the law by bringing back from other states illegal fireworks -- ones that explode or shoot high into the air.
“I’m trying to discourage parents from going across state lines in Alabama or South Carolina or these other states that sell these exploding fireworks and are bringing them back,” Hudgens said. “(People) are teaching your child, ‘Don’t worry about the laws. If you don’t like it, just break it.’ That’s not a message we want to teach (the younger) generation.”
Larry Smallwood, Macon-Bibb County’s chief of fire prevention, said the use of illegal fireworks is too vast of a problem to control. Despite regulations, he said, people will set off illegal fireworks anyway.
“The only public display (Macon-Bibb County) has is (at Lake) Tobesofkee,” Smallwood said.
Though Hudgens didn’t know Georgia’s numbers, he said about 8,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the country each year for fireworks-related injuries, and many of them are children.
Despite not having the bigger visual and sound impact of illegal fireworks, the legalized sparklers and fountains can be just as dangerous, officials said.
Dr. Anthony Pearson-Shaver, medical director of The Children’s Hospital at The Medical Center of Central Georgia, said the hospital treats second-degree flash burns from sparklers more often than injuries from firecracker blasts.
“There has been a lot of talk in the pediatric community, a lot of advice against using (sparklers),” Pearson-Shaver said. “Those are the things that kids run around with. You’ll get to see a couple of burns from time to time. ... A burn is a burn is a burn.”