By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
With their fiery plumes, showy sparkles and loud pops, fireworks have long epitomized the ostentatious and irrepressible spirit of Independence Day festivities.
While fireworks are a staple for every Fourth of July celebration, handling them is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. After all, they are essentially explosive devices and should be treated with the utmost care.
“We want people to enjoy their Fourth of July, but at the same time, we have to look out for their safety because in our business, life safety is the first and top priority,” said Fire Marshal Robert Martin.
National statistics show that fireworks cause approximately 23,000 fires, injure about 9,000 people and cause an estimated $35 million in property loss annually.
Martin strongly urged people to leave the fireworks displays to the professionals.
“It’s the amateurs that end up getting hurt, hurting someone else or starting a fire,” Martin said. “As far as my safety tips, go to a fireworks display and enjoy it with your family.”
According to city ordinances, fireworks are not permitted inside Copperas Cove city limits, and perpetrators will have their fireworks confiscated and may be subject to a fine of up to $200.
Due to wetter conditions this year, Coryell County has not issued a burn ban, and fireworks are allowed outside of city limits on private property. Those caught alongside the road or on public grounds are still subject to legal action.
Fireworks are sold to the public from June 24 to July 4, and prices can range from 25 cents to up to $1,000.
According to stand operators Paul Talbett of American Fireworks and Charles Becker of Mr. W Fireworks just outside of Copperas Cove, the best values for fireworks are the family packs and display assortments, which provide a sampling of different types of fireworks.
Fireworks can be divided into two categories: aerials and ground effects. Within these categories are options for various sound effects and number of shots or rounds fired.
Aerial fireworks are the types that explode in the air and include rockets, missiles, artillery shells, cannons and roman candles. As they travel fairly long distances, these fireworks tend to be more dangerous and should be handed more carefully.
Ground effects include fountains, firecrackers, smoke bombs, spinners and sparklers. These displays stay on the ground while emitting small showers of sparks and smoke. But don’t be fooled: ground effects can also cause severe damage.
“These things can blow a hand off,” Becker said of a brand of firecrackers called M-100s. “They’re basically a bigger version of a firecracker that can blow a hand off or a finger off if you don’t know how to use them.”
Fireworks safety is as simple as reading the label and using a little bit of common sense.
“If they’re used like they’re supposed to, you can have a safe and enjoyable time. Most of the problems occur when people are doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” Talbett said.
Putting together a backyard fireworks display takes some preparation.
The shooting area should have no dry grass or flammable materials within a 100-foot radius. An ideal launching site would be a flat gravel, dirt or concrete surface clear of overhanging power lines or branches or nearby buildings. Fireworks should never be ignited indoors, and it is a good idea to have a garden hose or fire extinguisher on hand in case of a fire.
After lighting fireworks, stay about 15 to 30 feet away, and only one should be lit at a time.
Becker recommended lighting fireworks with “punks,” or a smoldering stick used to safely ignite fuses from a distance so that the shooter does not need to pick up or hold the fireworks. Most fireworks stands give away free punks with a purchase.
“If you’re not experienced, ask the stand owners. They’ll know how to do it,” Becker said.
Children under 16 years of age are not permitted to purchase fireworks and should be supervised at all times when dealing with fireworks.
Malfunctioning or misfired fireworks should not be relit or handled, and never attempt to dismantle or make your own fireworks. Fireworks can be properly disposed of by dousing them in water and discarding them in a trash can.
After the holidays, fireworks ought to be stored in a cool, dry area away from any anything flammable.
“Many times consumers don’t prepare for the evening’s fireworks display,” said Ralph Apel, president of the National Council on Fireworks Safety. “The designated shooter should prepare a shooting area, assess how many people will be watching the display and lay out a spectator area that is far enough away from the shooting site. The shooter should carefully read the label of each firework and understand exactly what it will do. Preplanning makes for a safe and fun backyard fireworks display.”
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-6481