Don’t Get Burned in This Year’s Fourth of July Celebrations

One of the most popular ways for Americans to celebrate the independence of our country is to attend a fireworks show.  According to Birmingham  law enforcement officials, this is also the safest way for Americans to be around fireworks, too.

Last year on July 4, fireworks not only sparked twenty blazes in Birmingham, which caused $80,000 in damage, but injured eight people as well.  Police officers will not be enjoying the holiday this year, as officers will be out and about catching not only those who illegally use fireworks, but those who illegally fire guns, too.    Sheriff’s officials said, with the dry and hot conditions in the area, they prefer the fireworks to be left to professionals.

Sgt. Jack Self of the sheriff’s department stated that additional officers will be on the streets to help enforce the city’s fireworks and firearms ordinances, which, if a person is caught violating either ordinance, can result in a $500 fine and 180 days in jail.  The city uses a ShotSpotter System to help track down illegal gunfire.  This system can detect the difference between gunfire and fireworks, and last year detected 75 gunshots and 170 fireworks on the Fourth of July.  The goal of the police department is to “help ensure citizens have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend without the fear of injury from illegal behavior,” stated Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper.

The United States Eye Injury Register provides statistics of firework injuries.

  • An estimated 12,000 fireworks-related injuries are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms annually
  • As many as 400 Americans suffer permanent vision loss in one or both eyes as a result of those injuries
  • The victims of those injuries are more often bystanders than persons actually using the fireworks
  • About sixty percent of those who suffer fireworks-related eye injuries nationwide are under the age of sixteen
  • Nearly fifty percent of firework injuries are caused by bottle rockets

Though most fireworks are legal in unincorporated county areas, there are still rules that need to be followed.  It is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of sixteen and to an intoxicated person.  It is also illegal to ignite fireworks within 600 feet of a church, hospital, school, asylum, any enclosed building, or within 200 feet of where fireworks are stored or sold.  Fireworks cannot be ignited in a vehicle, or thrown from or into a vehicle either.

Fireworks Safety Tips

  • Leave fireworks to the professionals, as the safest way to enjoy them is to attend a public display conducted by trained professionals
  • Never let children handle fireworks
  • Never aim bottle rockets at people, buildings or vegetation
  • Ignite fireworks on flat concrete surfaces
  • Always have a water source, such as a hose or bucket of water, nearby
  • Soak used fireworks in a bucket of water
  • Do not try to alter fireworks and do not relight duds, but wait twenty minutes then soak them in a bucket of water
  • Spectators need to keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter needs to wear safety glasses
  • Never use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives as they can kill you

Sgt. Self said that police understand the tradition of fireworks on July 4th, but that citizens need to use common sense in preventing a celebration from turning into a tragedy.