LUMBERTON — As people make their way to one of the local fireworks events to celebrate the Fourth of July, others may choose to put on their own show. State and local authorities urge people to exercise caution when using fireworks.
Lumberton Fire Chief Paul Ivey said that while professional fireworks displays can create a fun and enjoyable night, when used by an “everyday citizen,” fireworks can become dangerous.
According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, last year North Carolina fire departments responded to more than 100 fireworks-related calls with an estimated $225,000 in property damage. Nationally, more than 200 people per day go to emergency rooms with fireworks-related injuries during the month surrounding July Fourth, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
North Carolina laws allow people to possess and shoot only “consumer fireworks,” including sparklers, fountains and novelty fireworks that do not explode. Fireworks that are banned include bottle rockets, firecrackers, Roman candles and mortars — any item that is intended to spin, leave the ground or fly through the air.
“I know we’re going to get a lot of calls,” Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill said. “… People will call them in. If people are shooting fireworks, they will call them in.”
McNeill said that the high number of calls makes it difficult for officers to deal with each case.
“We try to get to every one of them that we can and warn them about discharging them,” he said. “They’re going to shoot them off anyway, and we can’t handle all of them.”
McNeill said that even though shooting fireworks is illegal, the department rarely has to charge people.
“Most of the time, if we tell them that they shouldn’t be shooting them, they adhere to it,” he said.
Even with legal fireworks, authorities are stressing safety. According the Fire Marshal Office, a handheld sparkler burns at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that into perspective, water boils at 212 degrees, a cake bakes at 350 degrees and wood burns at 575 degrees.
“Despite public awareness about the dangers of fireworks, the Lumberton Fire Department still feels that it is essential to issue reminders about the hazards of fireworks when not handled by professionals,” Ivey said. “… In lieu of purchasing your own fireworks, consider attending a fireworks display sponsored by your local community.”
Those who don’t want to take their chances can catch one of the following upcoming displays: Lumberton’s Family Fourth Celebration; tonight at 7:30 at the Lumberton High School football stadium; St. Pauls; sunset on Wednesday behind the Piggly Wiggly. and Pembroke; Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Lumbee Regional Development Association.
If you plan to light up the sky during the holiday, Ivey suggests keeping a few things in mind:
— Always read and follow label directions.
— Always have an adult present.
— Use fireworks outside only.
— Never aim fireworks at another person.
— Have a bucket of water or a hose nearby in case of an accident.
— Don’t hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting.
— Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush, leaves, and flammable substances.
— Light one firework at a time, and never relight a dud.
— Do not light fireworks in metal or glass containers.
— Don’t pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
— Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
— Seek medical attention immediately if injured by fireworks.