Fire officials urge caution for July 4th holiday

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With July 4th coming up and on the heels of an accidental fire that scorched five acres of a local park, Gwinnett County fire officials are urging caution with fireworks and other pyrotechnics.

On Saturday, 42-year-old Ted Scartz triggered a brush fire at Lawrenceville's Alexander Park while he and his two sons launched a model rocket. Some 30 firefighters battled the blaze in record temperatures.

The fire was extinguished in about an hour, but not before it scorched about five acres of grass. Flames came close to a century-old oak tree that's been a landmark at the park since it opened in 2009.

Scartz was ultimately arrested and charged with "pyrotechnics prohibited," according to Gwinnett County jail records.

With that incident in mind and soaring temperatures, fire officials pleaded with residents not to produce their own fireworks displays.

"With the many opportunities to get together and view professional fireworks displays," spokesman Lt. Colin Rhoden said, "why take any risks?"

That said, they issued guidelines for safe personal fireworks use.

-- Never give fireworks to children

-- Always keep a bucket of water, a garden hose or a fire extinguisher close by

-- Always light fireworks on flat, stable ground and away from buildings and vehicles

-- Never light fireworks in stormy or windy conditions

-- Never attempt to fix or reignite malfunctioning fireworks

-- Soak all spent and malfunctioning fireworks in a bucket of water for several hours before discarding them

While some fireworks have been legalized in Georgia, those that explode or rise in the air -- like roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers -- are still illegal.