Dry conditions increase danger

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

City and county officials are urging area residents to take moreprecautions with fireworks this New Year’s Eve due to the firehazard posed by unusually dry conditions.

“It’s very dry. People need to be very careful and extracautious,” said Lincoln County Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey.

Normally, he said, fireworks are a minor concern and cause onlyone or two fires a year. However, this year’s dry conditions areideal for a more dangerous fireworks season.

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In fact, Galey said, county fire departments responded to 12grass fires Tuesday and “some of those were caused byfireworks.”

It is illegal to use fireworks inside the city limits ofBrookhaven.

Storm debris and blue roofs as a result of Hurricane Katrina andthe subsequent recovery efforts further enhance the odds offireworks causing a blaze, Galey said.

The vinyl/plastic material used on blue roofs burns quickly,Galey said. A firework can burn through or land beneath a blue roofto smolder for hours, long after people have quit watching forfires.

Dale Tharpe of Richland, a salesman for Robbie’s Fireworks,suggested having a portable fire extinguisher at hand foremergencies.

“It’s a good safety precaution any time you handle fireworks,but especially under dry conditions,” he said.

Adult supervision and common sense are important to avoiding orpreventing many possibly dangerous scenarios involving fireworks,Tharpe said.

Most fireworks salesmen warn customers about the dangers anddescribe proper usage of a each type of firework during the sale,he said.

“The biggest safety issue is people holding them in their handsduring the launch or while trying to light them,” Tharpe said.

The most common fireworks abuse by children, and even someadults, is to hold a bottle rocket and aim it at a friend, relativeor pet until it launches and streaks toward its target.

“Shooting them at each other is out of the question. That’sreally dangerous,” he said. “Bottle rockets are called that for areason. They should be fired from a bottle. Fireworks are used tocelebrate an occasion – an event or a holiday. They are not agame.”

Tharpe also recommended people launch their fireworks from alevel surface and light the fuse by using a punk lighter, whichresembles an incense stick.