Officials urge safety during holiday

Published 10:04 am Friday, July 3, 2015

Although known as a holiday of fun and excitement, Independence Day celebrations should also include a few safety precautions.

Brookhaven Fire Chief Tony Weeks said the best step to take is to read and follow the directions on all fireworks.

“I would do exactly that,” he said. “Use some common sense.”

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He said the National Fire Protection Agency’s official recommendation is to forgo backyard fireworks and go to a firework show. However, Weeks said he understands that most people won’t follow that advice.

“If you’re going to use them, do with extreme caution,” he said.

Weeks said small children shouldn’t be using fireworks at all. He also warned about sparklers, which can stay hot after they stop burning. State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said sparklers accounted for 41 percent of injuries in 2013.  Their high temperatures can result in third-degree burns. Weeks advises sparkler users to keep a bucket of water nearby and to drop the spent sparklers in to cool them down.

Weeks said fires are not a big concern because Lincoln County has been getting plenty of rain. However, he said it is always possible so individuals should remain cautious and vigilant.

Weeks also warned that popular teenage activities such as bottle rocket wars are extremely dangerous, and no one should ever point fireworks at each other.

“Those things will put your eye out,” he said.

Fireworks can also be dangerous to pets. The American Humane Association said July 5 is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Pets may flee from fireworks and become disoriented and exhausted.  AHA cited situations in which fearful animals broke a leash, dug under a wall or jumped a high fence.

AHA recommends that pet owners ensure that pets are wearing a collar and identification tag.

Celebrators should also take caution on the road.

“Don’t be out here drinking and driving,” Weeks said. “If you’re traveling, wear your seatbelts.”

Mississippi Highway Patrol will begin its holiday enforcement period on Friday at 6 p.m. The increased patrol will continue until Sunday at midnight.

“With the new texting and driving law that is now in place, we are encouraging drivers to change driving habits that could put themselves or other motorists at risk,” MHP Lt. Johnny Poulos said. “We are asking motorists to join with us in making the roadways safer in Mississippi and to help allow families to have a joyous holiday weekend.”