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Thursday, July 3, 2008

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Memories of July 4th are often ones of childhood innocence and pride. Remembering what it was like to eat lukewarm hot dogs, running with no destination while sparklers light up the path ahead and looking up at the illuminating explosions of color at the local park. July 4th memories can serve as moments of joy in an otherwise stressful world, but some warn that negligent behavior can quickly turn joyous times into dangerous and even fatal accidents.

Local law enforcement and safety organizations around the country diligently request that adults and children partaking in fireworks festivities take necessary steps to keep July 4th memories happy and safe.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission show startling statistics, such as 49 people were killed between the years of 2000 and 2004, to warn others about the potential dangers of the improper use of fireworks.

As the U.S. Fire Administration states, "Fireworks are not toys, they are devices designed to reach high temperatures, to burn and spark and to explode and launch. They are unpredictable by nature."

Last year alone, an estimated 9,200 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms around the country for firework related injuries. It is no surprise that the majority, over 6,400 of these injuries, occurred in the one month period surrounding the Fourth of July.

The first step to fireworks safety, according to law enforcement, is to know which fireworks are allowed in your area and how to properly use those devices. All states have varying laws and regulations that determine which fireworks can be bought, sold, used, how they can be used and whether they are allowed at all.

In Arkansas, the types of fireworks authorized to be sold and used are regulated by the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Fire Marshal's Office. With bigger and more explosive fireworks being introduced to enthusiasts each year, the dangers continuously become more serious.

"Consumer-wise, everybody wants bigger and better. People like the multi-shot items and multi-effect cakes with a single fuse that sets off a string of different effects. In the last four or five years, the industry has taken consumer fireworks to new levels. It's really great," Tom Daniel of Arkansas Pyrotechnic Productions said in an interview with Ozarks Magazine.

Although exciting to fireworks producers like Daniel, to local law enforcement, the excitement is a bit more fleeting when called out due to a fire caused by fireworks too large for the area.

Paul Halverson, the director and state health officer of the Arkansas Health Department recommends leaving fireworks to the professionals.

"Gather your family, sit back, relax and enjoy a professionally organized fireworks display," Halverson writes.

Fireworks Safety Tips

Fireworks safety tips to ignite by:

* Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

*Sparklers, considered by many the ideal "safe" firework for the young, burns at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing.

* Read and follow all warnings and instructions.

* Be sure others are out of range before lighting fireworks.

* Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

* Never relight fireworks that have malfunctioned. Soak them with water and throw them away.

* Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a malfunction or fire.

* Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.

* Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.

* Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.

Additional facts according to a 22-year-study conducted in Ohio by Dr. Gary Smith of the Center for Injury and Research and Policy at Columbus Children's Research Institute:

* 67 percent of sparkler-related injuries were among children 5 years or younger.

* 70 percent of patients treated for all fireworks injuries were male.

* Adult supervision was present in 54 percent of cases.

* The eyes were injured in nearly one-third of cases.

* The average age of patients was eight and a half years old.

Listed are regulations for the state of Arkansas and your local area, and safety precautions suggested by several organizations structured around citizens health and safety such as FEMA, U.S. Fire Administration, the Arkansas Department of Health and the National Council of Fireworks Safety.

Fireworks specifically permitted:

* Roman candles

* Sky rockets

* Helicopter Rockets

* Cylindrical and cone fountains

* Wheels

* Torches

* Colored fire

* Dipped sticks

* Mines and shells

* Firecrackers with soft casings

* Other novelties with size limitations

Authorized selling period:

* June 20-July 10

* Dec. 10-Jan. 5

*Sparklers and Snakes permitted all year.

Permitted age to purchase:

* 12 years of age.

* 18 if otherwise stated on package.

Display fireworks:

* Apply to Director of State Police at least two days before display date. Prior approval by local authorities required.

* Proof of liability insurance.

* No license specifically required in state law except proof of training.

Additional local regulations:

* Sharp County has no ordinances but is asking citizens to do the following:

* Observe the "quiet time" of your specific town

* Cannot shoot off fireworks within 600 feet of a church, hospital or school.

* Cannot shoot off fireworks within 200 feet of where fireworks are sold or stored.

* All citizens are responsible for their own cleanup.



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