Shooting fireworks risky now because of drought conditions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / June 24, 2000

LAPLACE – Independence Day is a time for a lot of favorite activities like picnics, swimming, parades, a long weekend, and most important of all – fireworks.

Fireworks are especially important in St. John Parish where it is legal tosell and use them. However, this year that enthusiasm for things that goboom has to be tempered because of one factor – the drought.

Because of the lack of rain this part of southern Louisiana is in a “severe drought” condition. Not only is the soil dry, but so are the forests andsurrounding brush. Because of the unusually dry conditions, the risk of fireis very high.

That is why state Fire Marshal V.J. Bella is encouraging families to attendpublic fireworks displays in place of using fireworks at home.

Also, with fireworks officially going on sale Sunday, Bella is asking the firework industry to institute a self-imposed, voluntary ban on the sale of stick rockets, missiles, roman candles, sparklers or any device that emits flame.

St. John Parish officials said the recent rains did lower the fire risksomewhat, but they are still asking that people think before they use fireworks.

Director of St. John Parish Civil Defense Brent Madere said,” We are askingthat people be very, very careful when handling fireworks this year.

“Even though we aren’t in as much danger as we were a couple of weeks ago, people still have to be careful. We’re asking people to shoot offfireworks on hard surfaces like concrete or dirt. We’re just asking peopleto use their heads and be careful.”The president of the LaPlace Volunteer Fire Department, Frank Fagot, is especially concerned with a certain type of fireworks.

“We have a major problem with bottle rockets,” said Fagot. “They tend tofly very erratically and end up on people’s roofs, in cars, and even in houses where they can start fires.”Like Bella, Fagot recommends that people in the River Parishes attend officially sanctioned fireworks displays.

For the first time, St. John Parish, under the auspices of Parish PresidentNickie Monica, is sponsoring Fourth of July celebration called “St. John’sMillennium Salute to Veterans of All Wars.”It wasn’t the drought that led to the celebration, according to Monica.

“This is something we’ve been planning since before I took office,” said Monica. “Fireworks tend to bring a community together.”Monica hopes to make this a yearly event.

“And next year will be bigger and better,” he promised.

The celebration will be held Monday, July 3, on the Mississippi River. Onthe east bank people can watch the fireworks from the levee in front of St. Peter’s Church, and on the west bank the show can be watched by theEdgard courthouse.

The program will start at 8:30 p.m. with a special memorial tribute to allfallen veterans. This will take place simultaneously on both sides of theriver. The fireworks display will begin at 9 p.m.Julia Remondet, director of the St. John Economic DevelopmentDepartment, said Classic Fireworks Co. will put on the display from abarge anchored in the middle of the river.

On the same night, St. Charles Parish will put on its 10th annualIndependence Day celebration at Luling Bridge Park. The family-orientedparty begins at 6 p.m. with live music and dancing. The fireworks displaywill begin approximately at 8:45 p.m. The fireworks will be shot off fromthe top of the levee by a professional fireworks company licensed by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Parish organizers suggest that people bring their own lawn chairs. Eventhough refreshments will also be sold at the park, residents are encouraged to bring ice chests and picnics with them.

St. James Parish officials say they have not planned any fireworksdisplays.

For those of you who would still like to light up your own fireworks, Bella made the following safety suggestions:

Always read and follow the label 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 place 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 building.

Keep fireworks away from small children.

Do not alter or make your own fireworks.

While fireworks can be purchased and shot in St. John Parish, they can’t befired off in St. Charles Parish.In St. James Parish, fireworks cannot be possessed or shot off in thetowns of Gramercy or Lutcher.

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