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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Celebrate Independence Day safely

Friday, July 2, 2010

A bundle of small pyrotechnics in his shopping basket, Mike McKinney explains fireworks safety to his son Mitchell, 5, Friday at the Fireworks USA store on Indianapolis Road. The McKinney family made a stop in Greencastle on their way from Indianapolis to Van Bibber Lake. [Order this photo]
The mainstay of Independence Day celebrations -- fireworks -- will light up the night sky across the country this holiday, and using proper precautions and following the law in using pyrotechnics will make the festivities safer and saner for everyone.

Fireworks can only be discharged between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., except on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and New Year's Eve, when the times are 9 a.m. to midnight.

The latest Indiana fireworks law passed was in 2006, which gave permission for residents to burn fireworks in their backyards, but local fireworks distributors and law enforcement officials say using common sense is the best way to prevent fireworks-related injuries.

Only state-approved fireworks can be legally used, and no one under 18 years of age is allowed to purchase, possess or use them unless supervised by an adult.

Lieutenant Dan Jones, commander of the Putnamville Post, generally doesn't have too many problems with people calling in about fireworks-related injuries or incidents, citing noise complaints as the most common issue, and isn't expecting any more calls than is typical for this time of year.

"People expect a certain amount of noise, and complaints are generally resolved pretty quickly," he said.

As for fireworks safety, Jones pointed to common sense as the primary preventative measure for injuries and accidents.

"Don't let children near fireworks and make sure you're not intoxicated while lighting them," he said.

Kyle App, lieutenant at the Greencastle Fire Department, said there will be three firefighters on duty Saturday and four on Sunday.

"It's pretty slow during 4th of July. Everyone expects it's a holiday weekend, so people expect bottle rockets everywhere," he said.

He said the department usually gets very few fireworks-related calls over the holiday and most firefighters spend the weekend at Robe-Ann Park to offer medical assistance and to confiscate unauthorized fireworks for public safety.

App advises people to never carry fireworks in pockets, stand above a firework when lighting it, and never assume something is a dud if it doesn't go off right away.

"It could go off when you least expect it, so put it in bucket of water to be sure," he said.

In 2008, the state reported 141 injuries related to the misuse of fireworks and in 2009 the state reported 116, according to the Indiana Department of Health, which is required to receive an annual report on the number of firework-related injuries during the Independence Day holiday.

Kraig Kinney, director of Operation Life in Greencastle, said traditionally the area is pretty lucky in terms of the number of burn victims the facility sees each year over the July 4 holiday and sees more people coming in for ATV accidents than fireworks-related injuries.

In general, he said people should read instructions, pay attention, keep a distance away from fireworks after lighting them. He said people should strongly consider a professional lighting pyrotechnics by instead attending city displays.

"We usually see one serious injury a year, and sometimes we might see people transferred to the emergency room with burns on their hands, but nothing major," he said.

Charles Cooper, manager at Fireworks USA on Indianapolis Road, said his biggest sellers this year include sparklers and smoke bombs, and he explains how to use each firework to customers as they purchase them.

"Don't try to make your own fireworks out of sparklers and don't stand close to them after you light them," Cooper said.

Sales usually pick up the day before July 4, he said, and expects to see around 105 over the weekend.

The parent company of Fireworks USA, Black Cat, also provides fireworks safety coloring books for children to learn about the proper fireworks procedure.

Christy McKinney and her family stopped in Fireworks USA to buy fireworks on their way to celebrate the holiday on Van Bibber Lake.

The family spent a total of $67 on fireworks this year, including sparklers. Christy and her husband Mike always use precautions when letting their children Mason, 9, and Mitchell, 5, use them and watch larger pyrotechnics.

"They like them and it's fun for them," she said. "I tell them to not touch them when sparklers are burnt out and to stay away from my husband when he lights the bigger ones."

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