Firefighters urge locals to leave fireworks to the pros

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett County firefighters are urging amateur pyrotechnicians to leave Independence Day fireworks to the pros.

The combination of dry vegetation and "enthusiastic patriots" lighting fireworks can lead to situations that easily get out of hand, fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said. Emergency crews are always concerned that sparks from the fallout of consumer-type fireworks can spread quickly, endangering nearby buildings and people.

"With the many opportunities to get together and view professional fireworks displays," Rutledge said, "Why take any risks?"

Public fireworks displays are conducted by licensed and permitted professional pyrotechnicians, and sites are approved through an application to the probate court and inspected by the fire department's community risk reduction division, Rutledge said.

There are 15 organized fireworks shows throughout Gwinnett this weekend, beginning today with celebrations in Stone Mountain Park and Auburn. Shows hosted by the city of Lilburn, Coolray Field, Lake Lanier Islands, Stone Mountain Park and the Mall of Georgia will close out Fourth of July displays on Monday.

In 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported two deaths and 9,000 emergency room visits related to fireworks. Almost half of those injuries involved children 14 years and under.

Dr. Earl Grubbs, chief of staff and emergency department physician at Snellville's Eastside Medical Center, said Gwinnett residents are not immune from injury.

"These injuries may range from simple burns to loss of fingers, other extremities, and even death," he said. "So many people enjoy the use of fireworks and think they are safe, but I think we get lackadaisical about them."

If you chose to create your own Independence Day extravaganza, these safety tips will help make it safer:

* Use only approved/legal fireworks. In Georgia, these include only "sparklers" like fountains, smoke balls, snakes, ground spinners, pinwheels and, of course, sparklers. Any item that explodes or rises in the air is illegal.

* Keep a bucket of water, garden house and fire extinguisher nearby. Discard used fireworks by soaking them in a bucket of water.

* Ignite fireworks in an open area away from buildings, vehicles, vegetation and any combustible material. Always ignite on a firm, flat surface.

* Never attempt to fix or re-ignite a malfunctioning fireworks device.

* Do not allow young children to play with fireworks under any circumstances. Even sparklers burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing.

For more information, visit www.gwinnettfiremarshall.com.