Officials: Stay safe around fireworks

With the Fourth of July approaching, fireworks are a major safety concern throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond, officials said.

When it comes to playing with fireworks, the best advice is to leave it to the professionals, said Vienna Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Scholl.

“The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend one of the professional displays at a local town,” he said. “That way, you don’t have to worry about injuring yourself on the home version.”

For those who insist on using fireworks at home, the practice should always begin with common sense, Scholl said. Safety is a must when dealing with a product that is designed to blow up, he said.

Many types of fireworks are illegal in West Virginia, Scholl said. Residents should use only those fireworks which are legal in West Virginia, despite being able to cross into Ohio to buy fireworks there, he said.

According to ready.wv.gov, the only fireworks legal to use in West Virginia are those in the categories of novelties and sparklers. This category includes snakes, glow worms, devices that produce smoke of any color, noisemakers which include party and string poppers, as well as snappers and drop poppers, and wire-based sparklers. Devices which emit showers of sparks, with or without whistles or crackles, are also legal in the state, the website said.

All other forms of fireworks are illegal in West Virginia, the website said.

“As a general rule, if it goes boom, it is illegal,” Scholl said.

In Ohio, there are only five types of fireworks that are legal to use : sparklers, party poppers, snaps, snakes and smoke balls. Other types can be purchased in Ohio but no set off in the state.

Children should never be permitted to use fireworks without adults present, Scholl said. Even sparklers, those popular items which throw brightly colored sparks out while being held in the hand, are too dangerous for children to use without supervision, he said.

“Sparklers are quite capable of catching clothing on fire, especially when they brush the burning sparkler up against their clothing,” Scholl said.

Before burning the novelty variety of fireworks, a responsible adult should review safety procedures with all children present, Scholl said. Children should be reminded not to go within six feet of the firework zone, and never be permitted to light the fireworks or to hold them as they are being lit, he said.

The area should be kept clear of all debris, and flammable items such as matches and other fireworks should always be kept well away, Scholl said.

Make certain there is a water source close by the lighting zone, he said. A bucket of water or a garden hose is a sufficient source, he said.

In the event a firework does not ignite, everyone should clear the area and wait for a few minutes, Scholl said. If the firework still fails to fire, an adult should thoroughly douse it with water, he said. It should then be left alone for at least an hour to make certain it will not go off when bumped or handled, Scholl said.

In the event that a burning firework lands on a home or a roof and catches fire to the structure, those present should call 911 immediately, Scholl said. Adults may use a garden hose to assist in putting out the fire from outside the structure, he said.

Even if the fire appears to be out, 911 should be called anyway to double-check the situation, Scholl said.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” he said.