This year, the Georgia state legislators and the governor made a grievous error in judgment which has cost lives. On July 1, 2015, fireworks became legal to buy and use in the state of Georgia. They can be used between the hours of 10 a.m. and midnight every day. On July 3, July 4, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, the curfew on setting off fireworks extends from midnight to 2 a.m. With the lackadaisical regulations now in place, the state Legislature has opened a Pandora’s Box. Apparently it was assumed that only responsible people would handle and use them. Many around Georgia found that was not the case.
Many pets went missing because of the horrendous blasts that disoriented them and drove them from the safe havens of their houses and yards. Some have been found and returned; some found dead; some are still missing. What grieves me even more is the suicide of Army veteran Mike Kreft of Valdosta, who was suffering from PTSD. Fireworks drove him to take his own life July 4, America’s Independence Day.
While we were told to be prepared for the increase of fireworks, protect our pets, etc., what our family personally experienced was beyond what I believe anyone should have to experience. We live next to a subdivision and have not had an issue until this Independence Day weekend. We had neighbors shooting off mortar type fireworks about 30 feet from our fence. Our dog kennels are about 50 to 60 feet from the fireworks. Our house was approximately 50 yards from them. The blasts were so intense, it shook the house. While most of our dogs were inside, we had a couple of others outside in very safe, secure and comfortable kennels that are covered with carports. The dogs we have also hunt and are used to shotgun blasts. They are used to the occasional firecrackers and bottle rockets from distant neighbors. The ear-shattering blasts from these mortar fireworks were too much. The sound reverberated off the carports and residue landed on top of them. We did bring all the dogs inside the house for the July 4 night.
Fireworks went on until close to 2 a.m. from all around. Some of the dogs that live inside (again hunting dogs) were still petrified over the sounds. Tranquilizing was not effective. One got out and tried to dig a hole in our garden to get away from the sound. A friend’s dog that we were caring for while they were out of town, almost escaped from us by eating her way through a chain-link fence. (She is also a hunting dog and used to shotguns). Our horses retreated to the furthest possible place in the pasture. These mortar fireworks were within 30 yards of our barn. I am still finding fireworks residue (bottle rockets and other items) in my pasture. One rocket was within 20 feet of my barn.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website, noise of 120 decibels and more is considered painful for a human. According to www.hear-it.org, fireworks can reach up to 175 db. This, I believe, is the noise level we were experiencing. The neighbors of those who choose to blast the area with fireworks did not ask to be subjected to this sort of noise levels. A dog’s hearing is much more sensitive and can hear four times better than humans. It is no wonder so many dogs are traumatized by fireworks.
Also, allowing fireworks to be used until midnight and 2 a.m. in the morning is irrational and totally disregards surrounding neighbors. Not everyone wants to be up until midnight or 2 a.m., listening to this noise. There are people who need be at work. In creating this law, the legislators totally ignored these people’s right to get a good night’s sleep in their own homes.
When I read of Facebook posts about on The Telegraph’s July 5 article about the complaints of fireworks, I saw many accusing those who complained as “whiners” and that those who are firing off fireworks are “only celebrating their freedom” and “we should just live with it.” Tell that to those who lost a beloved pet to fireworks. Tell that to the mother who had to deal with an epileptic child going into a seizure triggered by fireworks (as reported in a recent Telegraph news article). Tell that to the family of Army veteran Mike Kreft who took the oath to protect this country and who paid with his life because of the newfound freedom to shoot off whatever kind of fireworks you wish without regard or respect for anyone.
This is a law needs to be changed before the end of the year (New Year’s Eve) when those of us who do not wish to participate will have to endure another barrage of high-powered fireworks because of this poorly written and ill-conceived law. There needs to be better limits on the time these fireworks can be used and the type of fireworks that can be used in a residential area. Local authorities should have an option to ban fireworks in certain neighborhoods and areas and even require those who want to use fireworks pay for a permit to use them along with receiving permission from their neighbors who live within a certain distance of where they intend to use them.
Celia Tamker is a resident of Warner Robins.
EDITORS’ NOTE: The Georgia General Assembly would have to change the fireworks law and it does not reconvene until January 2016.