Sparks and recreation: Celebrate safely

It’s the Fourth of July and time to celebrate our nation’s independence.

In addition to gathering with friends and family for barbecues, holiday traditions include fireworks. There will be several large-scale shows in the valley, but you also can set off your own at home. If you choose the latter, there are several precautions you should take so your celebration doesn’t injure anyone or damage property.

According to Tim Szymanski, public information officer for the Las Vegas Fire Department, there is a misconception about the “safe and sane” fireworks sold in booths throughout Clark County.

“Many consider them to be like toys, but they are not. They are just a different form of fireworks and should be used only by adults. They do have the name ‘fire’ in them,” he said.

Fireworks available for sale in the area can be controlled more easily, meaning they do not twirl on the ground, fly through the air or explode, Szymanski said.

Although these fireworks are considered safer, they still present the potential for burns and fires. Szymanski said they should be used on a flat, firm surface away from vegetation and anything flammable. He suggests a private driveway or parking lot, as long as you have permission.

Fireworks cannot be used on any city, state or federal property including schools and parking lots.

“I have seen people use fireworks on the street in a cul-de-sac. While it is technically against the law, I haven’t seen any problems as long as you follow all the rules and clean up,” he said.

Szymanski also cautions against allowing children to use fireworks.

“I get a lot of requests for teaching Boy Scouts how to use fireworks or sparklers. This is not an exception to the rule. We spend all our lives teaching kids not to play with fire. Sparklers are red hot and can set clothing on fire or burn an eye,” he said.

Whenever using fireworks, Szymanski said you need to have a garden hose nearby, connected and ready to use, a bucket of water to put the used fireworks in and a shovel to pick up the used fireworks and put them in the bucket.

The spent fireworks should stay in the bucket for a couple of hours so that they are thoroughly soaked. He said the department responds to many garage fires from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. because used fireworks were just thrown into the trash along with a lot of paper and plastic.

He said you also should never try to relight a dud. If the firework does not function properly, put it in your bucket of water to make sure it is extinguished.

“It’s amazing how many people go to the hospital because they tried to relight a dud,” he said.

Other helpful tips include:

n Clean your yard of any unnecessary weeds or plant growth. Cut grass and keep it watered. Green plants are less likely to burn.

n Remove dead palm tree fronds. These can burn rapidly and cause burning embers that can spread over a wide area causing other fires.

n Clean any accumulated dead leaves, pine needles and other dead growth and dispose of properly.

n Keep a garden hose connected and ready to use in case a fire starts in your yard, even if you are not using fireworks. If you do not have a garden hose to use, a bucket of water on standby is a good backup.

n Keep pets inside in the evening, especially on the Fourth of July.

n Keep vehicles that are parked at home locked up and all windows shut. Park in a garage or under a canopy if available.

n Check your property several times during the evening if fireworks are being used in your area. Many times a fire can be detected while it is small and prevented from getting larger.

In most cases, if a spark from a firework creates a small fire on a lawn, a garden hose can quickly extinguish it. However, if there is any doubt, Szymanski said do not hesitate to dial 911 and call in professional help.

Also, it is illegal to use fireworks after midnight July 5.

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