Fire officials offer safety tips for Independence Day




With Independence Day festivities in full swing this week, the Garden City Fire Department and the state fire marshal are urging caution and offering tips for safe fireworks usage. The GCFD also conducted inspections of local fireworks stands on Monday.

Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton said a common assumption people make is that sparklers are safe enough to give to smaller children, but that it is not the case.

"Fireworks are not toys. Sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees," Shelton said.

According to a press release from the State Fire Marshal's office, the risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5 to 14, with more than twice the risk for the general population. Sparklers and novelties alone accounted for 38 percent of the 8,600 emergency room fireworks injuries in 2010.

Shelton said that the reason that people are being allowed to shoot fireworks off in the city limits is because of the dryness present in outlying areas.

"It's dry right now, so that's the reason we allow people to discharge in town since there's green grass, concrete and water hoses readily available," he said.

GCFD firefighter Jacob Gonzales said that because fireworks are essentially explosives, there's always a chance something can go wrong.

"We're all prepared on what to expect," Gonzales said.

On the fourth, the GCFD will have staffed fire trucks stationed in different parts of town.

"We used to just stay at the station. Now we divide it up by district so there are trucks on east (U.S. Highway) 50, trucks on west (U.S. Highway) 50. We figure faster is better. ... We stay in the trucks (ready for calls). It seemed to work pretty good last year," Garden City firefighter John Irsik said, adding that there were only a few very minor incidents last year.

Irsik, Gonzales and other GCFD firefighters conducted inspections of local fireworks stands on Monday.

"We are checking their permits, making sure everything's up to code, making sure they have all the proper permits to be able to sell the fireworks, (and) to make sure they have fire extinguishers on scene," Gonzales said.

They were also inspecting stands to make sure they weren't selling certain types of illegal fireworks.

"They're not allowed to have bottle rockets, no homemade fireworks at all," Gonzales said. "Other than that, we're allowing aerials again this year."

When asked if aerials pose concern to firefighters, Irsik said only if they are misused.

"If it's done right, it doesn't bother us. We don't want to see anybody hurt or somebody's house burned down due to the fact that somebody was misusing them," he said. "The main thing is stay safe and use them how they're supposed to be used and I think everybody will be fine. And then maybe we can get them next year again."

Ten-year-old Tony Cruz purchased a bag full of fireworks Monday afternoon and said he does a number of things to stay safe when shooting them off.

"I tell my mom to come outside to see me and I set them in the middle of the street and then I light them up and then I run for safety," Cruz said.

One of several tips offered by Shelton and the State Fire Marshal is to follow the instructions affixed to fireworks.

"It's when people misuse fireworks that we run into trouble," Shelton said.

The State Fire Marshal offers additional tips for safe fireworks activities:

* Always purchase high quality fireworks from a reliable, legitimate source.

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

* Never give fireworks to small children.

* Adults should always supervise use of fireworks by older children.

* Always wear eye protection when lighting fireworks.

* Never ignite fireworks indoors. Make sure your outdoor area is safe for fireworks use.

* Never point or throw fireworks at a person, building, or animal.

* Have a source of water handy, in case of fire.

* Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.

* Light only one firework at a time.

* Never attempt to re-light malfunctioning fireworks.

* When lighting fireworks, never position any part of your body over them.

* Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

* Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

* Never experiment with homemade fireworks. They are dangerous and illegal.

* Bottle rockets and other skyrockets that are mounted on a stick or wire are illegal.

* It is illegal to shoot fireworks on or under a vehicle, on any public roadway, within 50 feet of a firework stand or where fireworks are stored, and gas stations or any place liquid gas — including propane — is stored.

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