Officials: Use common sense this Fourth of July

ESCANABA – As the Fourth of July approaches, area residents are reminded to use common sense when it comes to lighting off fireworks. They’re also reminded about a new law that went into effect last week, prohibiting the use of combustible fireworks overnight during holidays.

“Obey the local laws and use common sense,” stressed Delta County Sheriff Gary Ballweg, anticipating increased use of fireworks as Independence Day nears.

In 2012, the enactment of the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act allowed the general public to purchase “consumer fireworks” including firecrackers, Roman candles, and bottle rockets. These combustible airborne fireworks were previously illegal for the public to use.

The legal use of these noisy combustibles was a catalyst for legislation that Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed into law last week prohibiting overnight use of consumer fireworks around holidays.

Local municipalities, such as Escanaba and Gladstone, will follow Public Act 65 of 2013, which does not allow consumer fireworks to be used between 1-8 a.m. on the day before, day of, and day after national holidays. Violators could be fined $500.

The law states: “A local unit of government with a population of less than 50,000 located in a county with a population of less than 750,000 may regulate the ignition, discharge, or use of consumer fireworks between the hours of 1 a.m. and 8 a.m.”

Gladstone Public Safety Officer Dawn Sailer said so far this year, the department has received a few noise complaints due to fireworks but no citations have been issued in relation to the city’s noise ordinance. More fireworks-related complaints are likely as July 4 approaches, she said.

In addition to the noise, fireworks are also a concern because of potential burn injuries as well as accidental fires that can occur with their use, said Sailer.

Though such incidents are rare, those setting off fireworks are reminded to use caution while handling the combustible materials, she added.

Ballweg offers some safety tips for fireworks which traditionally go hand-in-hand with Independence Day celebrations.

“Alcohol and fireworks do not mix,” he said. “A responsible, sober adult should supervise all fireworks usage.”

The sheriff added people and animals should maintain a safe distance from fireworks being set off. Fireworks should never be pointed or thrown at anyone.

Each year, more than 10,000 people in the nation are injured by fireworks, with children under the age of 15 accounting for one-third of those injuries, noted Ballweg.

As an example, Ballweg said the tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause third-degree burns.

He explained that water boils at 212 degrees, wood burns at 575 degrees, and glass melts at 900 degrees.

“You wouldn’t handle a pot of boiling water, a bonfire, or molten glass without taking proper safety precautions. Yet, each year parents across the country allow their children to handle sparklers with their bare hands,” he said.

Fireworks that don’t ignite should never be attempted to be lit again, cautioned Ballweg.

“Don’t try to re-light a dud. Soak it in water for 15 minutes and dispose of properly. Make sure you soak all the remains from your fireworks display in water for at least 15 minutes before disposing them properly,” he added.

He also recommends a bucket of water and a hose be handy while lighting fireworks. Protective eye-wear should also be worn, he said.