Fireworks safety tips from State Fire Marshal

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

By Blake Deshazo

The Selma Times-Journal

Fireworks can be a pretty sight to see as they blast off into the night sky and explode into bright, vivid colors. But if they’re not handled with care, the fun and games can take a quick turn for the worse.

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“People should remember that fireworks are explosives,” said State Fire Marshal Edward Paulk. “(Fireworks) are initiated by fire, and therefore they are dangerous. They can cause injuries, and they can cause fires, so we have to obey the law.”

It is legal to shoot fireworks in Dallas County, but a ban dating back to 1958 prohibits the use of fireworks within the city limits of Selma. Shooting them in the city is considered a misdemeanor and warrants a $500 fine.

“In Alabama it is legal to purchase and discharge fireworks in accordance with the law,” Paulk said. “But cities can be more restrictive, and by ordinance they can outlaw the sale, possession and use of fireworks.”

Paulk urges people that plan to shoot fireworks on New Year’s Eve to do so with caution.

“These are not toys,” Paulk said. “They will hurt (people).”

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were the cause of approximately 11,400 emergency room visits in 2013 children under the age of 15 accounted for 40 percent of those injuries.

“When you put fireworks down to discharge them, make sure children are not doing it,” Paulk said. “Children shouldn’t shoot (fireworks). It should be responsible adults.”

Paulk said if people plan to shoot fireworks, they should do it in a clear, open area.

“You cannot shoot fireworks within 600 feet of any building. That’s two football fields, which is quite a distance,” Paulk said. “(People) need to make sure the area where you’re discharging the fireworks is free and clear of combustibles that will ignite.”

Clothing is also important when it comes to shooting fireworks.

“Clothing should be the type of material that’s not easily ignited such as cotton,” Paulk said. ”If (people) use nylons and things like that, the heat from the fireworks can melt those, and that molten material will burn.”

Paulk also said it is important to wear long sleeves to prevent burns to the arms.

Paulk listed a few other tips to keep people safe while shooting fireworks on New Year’s Eve:

4Shoot fireworks on a flat surface.

4If the ground is dry, use a water hose to wet it.

4Do not drink alcohol and shoot fireworks.