Fireworks fun, but dangerous

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 1999

By ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / June 30, 1999

LAPLACE – The Fourth of July holiday is almost here, and that means it is fireworks season. Shooting off fireworks can be a lot of fun, but it canalso be hazardous to life and limb.

There are nearly 7,000 fireworks-related injuries each year in the U.S. Ofthose, nearly a fourth of all injuries caused by consumer fireworks are inflicted on bystanders.

State Fire Marshal V.J. Bella urges all families to view fireworks atpublic displays this Fourth of July.

“Attending a public fireworks displays on the Fourth of July is a safe way to honor our tradition of independence, our shared values, and our hopes for a healthy future,” Bella said.

For those who would rather purchase and shoot off your own fireworks to celebrate the Fourth, Bella offers the following safety suggestions: Always read and follow directions carefully Always have a garden hose or water bucket nearby for medical emergencies and/or to douse spent or misfired fireworks.

Adults should always supervise fireworks activity.

Fireworks should be placed on a hard, smooth surface prior to ignition.

Never light fireworks in your hand.

Quickly light one firework at a time, and move away quickly after lighting.

Never point or throw fireworks at people, pets, cars or buildings.

Keep fireworks away from small children.

Do not alter or make your own fireworks Also, Bella warns parents and children about two potentially hazardous fireworks, bottle rockets and sparklers.

Bella said bottle rockets can be dangerous because they fly erratically, causing bystander injuries. Plus the bottles and cans used to launch thesefireworks can often explode showering bystanders with fragments of glass and metal.

Sparklers, he said, burn at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly hot enough to melt gold. He added sparklers should not be given to very young children.The laws governing fireworks use vary in the River Parishes and are: St. John the Baptist ParishIt is unlawful for any person, persons, groups, firm or agency to discharge any type of fireworks or small explosives usually associated with holiday celebrations, other than specifically provided for. Exceptions are allowedfor Independence Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, from sundown to 10 p.m.; and New Year’s Eve, from sundown to 1 a.m.All fireworks use will be under the supervision of responsible adults and anyone under age 15 may not discharge fireworks without adult supervision.

Retail sales of fireworks are restricted to seven days in advance of the holiday, and no fireworks may be sold within 1,000 feet of any facility making, using, handling or storing flammable material, or used within 1,000 feet of such facility.

Also, fireworks may not be sold nearer than 500 feet of any residence, school, hospital, nursing home or church, or used within 500 feet of such facilities, if occupied.

On premises signs for fireworks retailers shall be restricted to one sign not to exceed 4 x 8 x 6 feet.

Fireworks may not be discharged near paper, dry grass, wood or wood pulp and shall not be modified from their original design.

Other use of fireworks for political, educational, religious, sporting, charity or similar special event may be done with written permission of the sheriff’s office and parish Civil Defense Department. Liabilityinsurance of $2 million is mandatory.

St. John Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Michael Tregre said deputieswill be out in force on Fourth of July to enforce the fireworks curfew.

“The first time we get a complaint about fireworks being used after 10 p.m., we will give a warning, but if we have to come out a second time, wewill confiscate all fireworks,” Tregre warned.

The St. John deputies will also be very strict about citizens dischargingguns to celebrate Independence Day.

“You will go straight to jail for this,” Tregre said. “There will be no firstwarning.”The penalty for illegally discharging a weapon is $1,000 or two years in jail, or both according to state law.

Another state law people should be aware of at this time of the year is that it is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 15.

St. Charles Parish The sale, storage, possession and firing or other use of fireworks of any type is prohibited within the parish. The only exception is for supervisedpublic displays of fireworks, provided the displayer first gets a fireworks display permit from the state fire marshal’s office and the company is insured with a minimum of $500,00 liability insurance Any displayer must give the sheriff’s office and the local fire department at least 10 days’ notice. Maximum penalty for violation of thismisdemeanor is a $100 fine or 30 days in jail or both.

St James Parish No persons shall explode or ignite fireworks on private property without the permission of the owner or occupant and such use is confined to that property. Also, no one shall use fireworks in such a manner as to causedamage to surrounding property or buildings.

In Gramercy, it is unlawful for any person to sell, offer for sale, exchange, barter or in any other matter dispose of or use, fire, shoot, discharge, or set off fireworks of any make.

In Lutcher, it is unlawful for any person to have, keep, store, use, manufacture, offer to sell, handle or transport any fireworks within the town limits. An exception is made only for fireworks displays in publicparks or other open places, where a permit has been issued by the mayor and board of aldermen.

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