Fireworks season means focus on safety

Photo by Michele Newbanks Jimmy Armbruster, 37, of Cambridge, looks at fireworks Monday afternoon at Eagle Fireworks in Marietta.

Fireworks can be a lot of fun, but they can also be dangerous. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated 9,100 people in the U.S. were injured by fireworks in 2018.

Capt. Brian Rhodes of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said there are few fireworks legal in Ohio. Although they can be purchased in the state, most can’t be set off.

“Basically, what you are allowed to have are smoke bombs and sparklers,” he explained. “At least in years past, purchasers of bottle rockets and roman candles have to be transferred out of the state within 48 hours.”

Rhodes said to legally set off fireworks, you have to have an exhibitors license.

This doesn’t deter Ohio residents from setting fireworks off, and it can be difficult for law enforcement to find where they are coming from.

“As far as our action, typically if someone calls in with a complaint, we try to find out where they are coming from,” he said. “Getting a good location is difficult. You can see them in the air, but you can’t pinpoint their location.”

He said when they do find who is setting the fireworks off, a warning usually cures the problem. If someone wants to see fireworks, Rhodes suggests they don’t set them off for themselves.

“Probably the safest thing is to go the one of the many fireworks displays in our area put on by professionals,” he said. “Their neighbors may have animals like cows and horses, or pets like cats and dogs, that typically won’t act normal because they are scared.”

If a warning doesn’t stop someone from setting off fireworks, it is a first-degree misdemeanor with a possible $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Firework injuries are common this time of year. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 44 percent of injuries were burns. The most common body injuries are to hands, fingers, legs and eyes.

Michael Stellfox, Squad 1 arson investigator for the Ohio Fire Marshal’s office, said although there is no longer a “liars form,” which people had to sign that said they would transport the fireworks out of the state within 48 hours, they now have to have an itemized receipt that is date and time stamped.

“The only items that can be used in Ohio are designated ‘trick and novelty’ which smoke, pop, and/or sparkle,'” Stellfox said through email.

As fireworks are still legal to sell in Ohio, vendors such as Eagle Fireworks in Marietta do brisk business this time of year.

Bobby Hamilton, store general manager, said some of the main sellers this year are the bigger-sized mortars and repeater cakes.

“A lot of bigger stuff is going out this year,” he said Monday afternoon.

He said they see shoppers from both Ohio and West Virginia, especially at their Marietta location. They also have a location in Quaker City.

“(West Virginia shoppers) are trying to beat the sales tax,” he said. “There is a 12 percent safety tax in West Virginia. A lot of people come over to take advantage because of the tax.”

He said the safety tax is in addition to the sales tax, which can make purchasing fireworks much more expensive.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com

Firework safety tips:

• Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

• Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.

• Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

• Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

• After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission.