Officials urge people to leave fireworks to pros

DECATUR - It's been nearly three years since some fireworks became legal in Georgia, but local Fire Department officials still feel it's important to educate their community members how to safely use the popular illuminations.

Gwinnett, DeKalb, Forsyth, Barrow, Cherokee, Fulton and Cobb counties hosted a fireworks safety event at the DeKalb County Fire Academy in Decatur on Friday morning. Just in time for the Fourth of July, attending fire officials focused on the importance of using fireworks properly.

"The idea was to have metro fire departments sharing fireworks safety tips and showing what can happen if you're not safe," said Gwinnett County Fire Department Spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge.

Spokespeople from many Atlanta-area departments aimed to urge consumers of the importance of using only legal fireworks and remembering to always read the instructions on the packages items used.

"You have to remember that with fireworks there's always a potential for injury and a fire," Rutledge said.

Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John Oxendine also attended the event, mentioning the dangers of using sparklers and other fireworks and how to prevent disaster.

"Just Monday some kids in Savannah were playing with some Roman candles - which are illegal in Georgia - and they were holding them in their hands and part of the flame bulb flew inside a house and burned it to the ground," Oxendine said. "A family of four was displaced and a firefighter was injured."

Oxendine and others informed that only some fireworks, mainly sparklers or novelty fireworks, are legal in the state. The more complicated combustibles, which shoot colorful sparks into the air, are usually the items not allowed in Georgia.

Oxendine said it is important for parents and others to know it is illegal for children to buy fireworks and children should not be using them.

"They need to be used by adults only. You need to read directions - which takes about two seconds - and you don't hold anything in your hand," Oxendine said. "They should be set off on flat concrete, flat asphalt or a flat clay area."

Rutledge said it is also important to remember to have a water hose or bucket of water nearby to put the flames out, especially with the dry conditions the state has been experiencing.

DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department Spokesman Capt. Eric Jackson as well as Rutledge and other department officials said due to the drought and safety, they are urging residents in their counties to seek professional fireworks shows instead of buying and setting off their own.

"Going out and seeing professional shows takes the danger away from both children and adults," Jackson said.

Both Capt. Jason Shivers, spokesman for the Forsyth Fire Department, and Barrow County Fire Department Spokesman Lt. Scott Dakin said they are also hoping their community members will opt for the professional fireworks shows taking place in and around their counties.

Each fire department spokesperson said they are planning to equip each professional show with their fire services in case any problems occur.

"We have taken added measures to provide safety," Rutledge said of Gwinnett County fireworks displays. "We will have an apparatus at each site, each site has been inspected by a fire inspector and a truck will be on hand."