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Fire Department urges caution during July 4 festivities

Independence Day is known for invoking several emotions in those who choose to celebrate it.

For most, there are stirrings of patriotism, pride or gratitude.  But for a select few, a common staple of Fourth of July celebrations—fireworks—instill recklessness.

Greenville Fire Department captain Les Liller has seen his share of horror stories involving fireworks during his tenure as a firefighter, and he’s hoping to reduce the aforementioned select few to zero.

Though holiday seasons usually complicate a firefighter’s night—especially those involving cookouts and explosives—weather conditions this year could make fires an infrequent affair.

“The thing with the Fourth of July holiday is that thankfully the ground is going to be very saturated with rainwater,” Liller said. “There are typically a lot of small grassfires that are started due to personal fireworks from time to time when we have a very dry season. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue for this Fourth of July season.”

But, of course, brushfires are hardly the only concern for firefighters during Independence Day.

First and foremost, Liller sought to remind citizens that the use of personal fireworks within the city limits of Greenville is prohibited.

However, for those choosing to use fireworks in one of Butler County’s numerous rural communities, there are a handful of precautions that should be taken.

The first is perhaps the most obvious.  Read the instructions.

“One of the biggest things to remember when you have personal fireworks is that all of them have directions printed on them, which are very specific about the way to use them,” Liller said. “So as long as you follow the safety precautions that are written on the packaging and do as instructed, then you’ll be safe with fireworks. 

“Typically we see injuries when people misuse fireworks or try to alter them in some way, or they don’t follow the printed instructions on how to use them.  That’s when we see finger and hand injuries, sometimes facial and eye injuries and also burn injuries.”

Liller offered an anecdote from his childhood and the popularity of sparklers, which children often held in their hands.  He added that it was likely the result of people failing to realize that the size of fireworks have no correlation with the danger they can present.

“One of the common misconceptions is when people say ‘Oh, it’s just a small firecracker.  I can let it explode in my hands and it won’t injure me,’” he said. “These things are loaded with different types of powder, and they’re a small explosive device even though they’re designed for celebration. 

“Don’t allow the size of the fireworks to deceive you into thinking it’s safe to hold in your hands—there are none that are safe to hold in your hands. They should be placed on a hard surface, or in a bottle or pipe, but they should never be held in your hands.”

Other tips for avoiding disaster include:

· Supervise all firework activities, making sure children do not light any fireworks.

· Avoid alcohol and drug use when lighting fireworks. Both can impair judgement and create hazardous conditions.

· Have safety equipment on hand. This includes safety glasses and ear protection.

· Do not light multiple fireworks at the same time.

· Use fireworks in a clearing far away from buildings and vehicles.

· Always have a hose or bucket of water available to douse fireworks.

· Soak “dud” fireworks in a bucket of water before discarding them. Wait 20 minutes before approaching the dud.

· Don’t point fireworks at people.

· Maintain a safe distance between those observing the fireworks show and the fireworks.

· Dispose of spent fireworks safely, away from combustible materials.

“If you choose to use fireworks out in the rural areas, be safe, have fun with them and use them as intended, and everyone will have an enjoyable celebration with fireworks,” Liller said. “Just don’t try to alter them or use them in a way that they’re not designed to be used.”