Caution urged in using New Year’s fireworks

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Many people would hold that shooting off fireworks on New Year’sEve was a long-standing tradition, but city officials are remindingthem that it is illegal to use them in the city limits.

“Every year this is a problem,” said Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson.

Although it is illegal to possess or use fireworks in the citylimits, nothing prevents people from visiting friends in the countyand enjoying them there, he said.

“We just ask people to use discretion and follow the warninglabels to make things safe and joyful rather than sad andsorrowful,” said Sheriff Lynn Boyte.

Fireworks can pose a danger to the uninitiated and theoccasional unstable firework can also wound a veteran of theactivity, Boyte said.

Boyte spoke from experience.

Approximately 50 years ago, Boyte had a firework go off in hishand and it damaged a finger. He said the finger still troubles himfrom time to time.

“The danger is really based on the fireworks you have,”Henderson said. “You could lose an eye, a finger, or even a hand. Iknow in the past I’ve confiscated fireworks capable of taking ahinge off a door. That’s certainly strong enough to take ahand.”

The chief said the police department receives numerouscomplaints every year about residents using fireworks and it may betime to take a tougher stance on the issue.

In the past, officers have simply confiscated the fireworks,”but the message doesn’t seem to be getting through,” Hendersonsaid. “If we have to start arresting parents to get that to sinkin, we will.

“It’s illegal to shoot fireworks in the city limits and we willuphold the law,” he added. “If it gets out of hand, we’ll chargethe parents with contributing to the delinquency of a minor becausethat is the law.”

Henderson said the department would target the parents, whosupplied their children with the fireworks, rather than thechildren.

“The kids don’t know any better. It’s the parents who should beresponsible,” he said. “We don’t want to arrest anyone, but whenyou get these complaints over and over again you have to dosomething.”

Fortunately, Boyte said, the county has recovered from the dryconditions it faced in October and November. During those months,the Mississippi Forestry Commission and volunteer fire departmentswere responding to an average of five grass fires a day.

Late November and December rains should have rehydrated thefoliage, he said, avoiding the dangers of fireworks setting offgrass fires.

Fred Smith, a shift captain with the Brookhaven Fire Department,agreed.

“I would think that’s true,” he said. “The ground’s still kindof moist from the rain we got the other day. I would encouragecaution, however.”