Fireworks spark caution warnings

LAWRENCEVILLE - What is the Fourth of July without picnic blankets and barbecues, patriotic music and, last but not least, fireworks?

By all means get your sparkle on this year, but take a few extra precautions to protect children and property, too. In a typical year in the United States, fireworks on July 4 cause more outdoor fires than all other causes combined, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

Injuries can also occur without careful use, although fireworks-related injuries have decreased steadily since 1976 - from 38 to 4 per 100,000 pounds of fireworks consumed, according to the National Council on Fireworks Safety.

Across the country, 45 states now allow fireworks in some form. Last year, a change in state law allowed Georgia youngsters to fire up sparklers and some other novelty fireworks for the first time. The lifted restrictions didn't result in any increases in reported fires or injuries over the 2005 Fourth of July weekend in Gwinnett, Rutledge said.

Nonetheless, fireworks still give some people the jitters. Bobbie Bunch, a Stone Mountain mother of four boys ages 20, 16, 15 and 9, said she won't let her younger kids use them.

"I'm scared of them myself, so I wouldn't want them to handle them," Bunch said. "It's something I guess a kid would think was exciting, but as an adult, I just look at the stuff that could happen."

Almost all sparkling, smoking or noisemaking fireworks are considered OK under Georgia law, as long as they don't explode or shoot up into the air. Legal fireworks include fountains, sparklers, smoke balls, snakes, ground spinners, pinwheels and most novelty fireworks including crackling ground items.

If you desire anything fancier, it's best to leave the show to professionals, Rutledge said. That's the safest way to enjoy the sights and sounds with the least danger to yourself or others.