Officials urge fireworks safety for New Year’s festivities
by Mark Andrews
Dec 31, 2013 | 1333 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As Bartow County residents ring in the new year, public officials remind those preparing to celebrate with fireworks to obey the law and take caution, especially when using the devices around children.

“Fires can be started even with the fireworks you can purchase legally in Georgia,” Bartow County Fire Marshall Bryan Cox said. “The biggest thing is to follow the manufacturer’s directions on the box.”

He said, for example, sparklers, which are commonly used by children, have the potential to cause harm.

“Everybody thinks ‘sparklers, there’s nothing to it,’ but last year we had a building burn — it was a loss — due to a child playing with a sparkler in a hay barn,” Cox said. “Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on safety and every one of them says, ‘Not to be used by children or under direct adult supervision.’ You can’t just turn the kids loose and let them have at it; there needs to be a responsible adult there to make sure things are not being done [incorrectly], that things are being done safely, not inside any buildings or anything of that nature.”

He said it was important to note that many fireworks purchased across state lines are illegal for use in Georgia. According to Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner’s website, www.oci.ga.gov, the use of illegal fireworks in Georgia is punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

“It was actually [that] all [fireworks were banned] up until a few years ago — all of them, even the sparklers and stuff were not allowed. ... Now, basically what they’re selling is a glorified sparkler,” Cox said.

He said he is expecting more residents participating in using personal fireworks this evening due to the wet weather on the Fourth of July, another holiday synonymous with firework use.

“You get a good many folks who get cranked up and want to bring in the new year with a bang,” Cox said.

State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said in a press release he urges parents to protect their children — and themselves — from the dangers of fireworks during the New Year’s holiday.

The law states that the definition of prohibited fireworks shall not include: “Wire or wood sparklers of 100 grams or less of mixture per item; other sparkling items which are non-explosive and nonaerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes; snake and glow worms; trick noise makers which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers, and drop pops each consisting of 0.25 grains or less of explosive mixture.”

The commissioner said sparklers are legal in Georgia, but should be used properly and with adult supervision.

“In 2011, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated approximately 9,200 people for fireworks-related injuries,” Hudgens said in a press release. “The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-19.”

Remind children that if they find unexploded fireworks, do not touch them, and immediately contact the local fire department.

“It’s traditional to celebrate the coming of the New Year with fireworks,” Hudgens said. “I urge our citizens to enjoy them safely by watching a professional display as they mark the arrival of 2014.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives warns that bringing in the new year with a bang via celebratory gunfire is not only unsafe, but it may be against the law.

“Discharging a firearm into the air may lead to charges under Georgia state law or federal charges if that person is prohibited from possessing a firearm,” according to a press release from ATF. “ATF will continue to support state and local law enforcement agencies by conducting ballistics testing on shell casings recovered if celebratory random shooting is suspected.

“ATF will also aggressively pursue any federal charges applicable to help deter these irresponsible and dangerous incidents.”

If residents observe anyone criminally misusing a firearm, they are urged to contact their local police department or call ATF at 1-800-ATF-GUNS (800 283-4867).