Fireworks safety urged during holidays

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 1999

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / December 25, 1999

LAPLACE – Christmas and New Year’s are not just the season for gifts, peace on Earth and resolutions. In the River Parishes this time of year isalso fireworks season.

The colorful firework tents are up and open along U.S. Highway 51 andAirline Highway as Christmas and New Year’s Eve approach.

“Sunday’s sales were good,” said Cheryl Taylor of Y2K Fireworks. “But wethink business will really pick up on Wednesday and Thursday.”Taylor is really hoping for great sales this year. Y2K Fireworks is donatinga percentage of its sales to the United Way.

The end of the century and the millennium makes this fireworks season even more spectacular. This means more people will be firing morefireworks than ever in the River Parishes, and that means that the chances for firework-related injuries will be even greater than usual.

Dr. Louis Trachtman of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitalssaid, “There is no such thing as safe fireworks.”Trachtman urges people to watch controlled fireworks displays rather than shoot them off themselves.

“The most common injuries among children and young people are second- degree burns caused by the careless handling of fireworks,” said Trachtman.

State Fire Marshal V.J. Bella also warns people about eye-injuries relatedto fireworks. Of the 7,000 fireworks-related injuries that occur each yearin the U.S., 2,000 of those are eye injuries with one-fourth leading topermanent blindness. Three-fourths of firework-related eye injuries areto boys between the ages of 13 and 15.

Like Trachtman, Bella encourages families to attend public fireworks displays for safety’s sake.

But since fireworks are legal in parts of St. James and all of St. Johnparishes, there will be a lot of “private” fireworks displays, and Bella asks that if you do fire off fireworks, follow these safety suggestions: Always read and follow the label directions carefully.

Always have a garden hose or bucket of water nearby for medical emergencies and/or to douse spent or misfired fireworks.

Adults should always supervise fireworks activities.

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 quickly away 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.

The single most dangerous firework is the small explosive bottle rocket.

They tend to fly erratically, causing injury to bystanders. The bottles orcans used to launch the rockets can themselves explode, showering bystanders with glass and metal.

Even though sparklers seem safe enough, remember they burn at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is almost hot enough to melt gold. Be verycareful when handing out sparklers to young children.

The laws regarding fireworks vary in the three River Parishes. In St.Charles Parish, it is illegal to buy, purchase or ignite fireworks at any time. The only time fireworks are legal is for public display with a properfirework display permit from the parish government. The penalty forshooting off fireworks is a $100 fine or 30 days in jail or both.

In St. John Parish it is illegal to sell, purchase or ignite fireworks exceptfor the Fourth of July, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Sale of fireworks is restricted to seven days before the holiday.

Fireworks can only be used from sundown to 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve,Christmas Day and the Fourth of July, and from sundown to 1 a.m. on NewYear’s eve. The penalty for violating any of these regulations is a finefrom $50 to $500.

Over in St. James it is illegal to sell, purchase or ignite fireworks in thetowns of Gramercy and Lutcher. In the rest of the parish, one can usefireworks on private property with the permission of the property owner, though it is illegal to use fireworks to cause damage to surrounding property or buildings.

A reminder that even in parishes where it is legal to sell fireworks, it is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 15.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office is also warning people about shootingoff firearms in celebration of Christmas and New Year’s.

“We don’t have a big problem with that in St. John,” said Capt. Mike Tregreof the Sheriff’s Office, “but if we catch someone illegally discharging a firearm, they will go to jail. We much prefer that you fire off fireworks.”

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