Fireworks pose big threat in dry weather
Officials are warning fireworks lovers to be especially cautious this Fourth of July. Drought conditions have left much of south Alabama dry and the spark from a bottle rocket or firecracker could be potentially devastating to fields and forests.
On Thursday, the Alabama Forestry Commission declared a “Red Flag Warning” in all 67 counties in the state.
The warning means existing dry weather conditions could potentially contribute to hazardous wildfire behavior, and urges all people to be extremely careful with outdoor fires, including fireworks and debris burning.
The warning went into effect on Thursday afternoon and will last through Wednesday, unless the State Forester extends it.
“People really need to be aware of it,” said Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips. “In my personal opinion, they really shouldn't shoot fireworks. It doesn't take much to start a fire in these conditions.”
Lack of rain has left Butler County starving for water. Irregular showers in the past week have done little to relieve crops and re-fill lakes and creeks.
And dry land is like gasoline for stray sparks and matches.
Phillips reminded Greenville residents that fireworks are illegal inside city limits. The city's fire department will be on-hand Saturday night to supervise the fireworks show at “Celebrate America” as a safety precaution.
“It's really the unsupervised, rural areas that will require the most attention,” said Phillips.
Phillips noted that several outlying spots in Butler County have seen grass fires, but the city has been fortunate. He said the fire department is still issuing burn permits, but with added caution.
“We're trying to encourage people not to burn,” he said. “Unless it's something that is absolutely necessary, we ask them to put it off until conditions get better.”
Phillips said construction has slowed down some for the summer, especially around Interstate 65. He said the fire department has not issued any burn permits in several weeks, especially to contractors looking to incinerate additional debris or waste.
“I think most people understand what it's like out here,” he said.
Despite conditions, fireworks will be lit over the weekend on through Tuesday, which leads to another problem: the risk of personal injury. Officials ask that a number of safety precautions be observed:
Obey your city or town ordinance on the use of fireworks.
Always purchase high quality fireworks from reliable sources.
Follow the printed instructions carefully, and use common sense.
Never use fireworks in glass or metal containers.
Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
Use fireworks outdoors only in a clear area away from houses and buildings.
Light only one item at a time, and then move back quickly once the fuse is ignited.
Keep all other fireworks at a safe distance from where they are being discharged.
Never experiment with homemade fireworks.
Always wear safety goggles when using fireworks.
Last Fourth of July weekend, Alabama emergency rooms reported 35 injuries related to fireworks - 28 of them to children under the age of 16, according to the Children's Hospital of Alabama.
“If you're not old enough to drive, you're not old enough to handle fireworks, period,” said Pam Palmer, President of Crazy Bill's Fireworks.
Also, fireworks dealers should note that it is against the law to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 16 in Alabama.