Fireworks are fun, but leave them to the professionals, says Ithaca fire chief

July 2, 2014 by Rachel Cera

With the Independence Day holiday approaching, Ithaca and New York State authorities are reaching out to remind residents that state law restricts possession and use of fireworks to certified pyrotechnics operators. According to the National Fire Protection Association, thousands of people are injured while using consumer fireworks every 4th of July holiday, and more fires are reported on July 4th in the U.S. than any other day of the year.

"We've had some near misses when fireworks were shot off and landed near a building causing a fire," says Chief Tom Parsons of the Ithaca Fire Department. "We had one last year up on Eddy Street, and three years ago a similar incident up on Oak Ave. In both cases, the fireworks were shot off, landed in someone else's back yard, and no one followed up where they landed until a passerby noticed smoke and/or flames."

Firemen's Association of the State of New York president Jim Burns says, "Leave the fireworks to the professionals and attend a locally-sponsored display in your neighborhood." The organization says an estimated 8,700 consumers were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in 2012, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children." Burns adds, "The tip of a sparkler burns at a temperature of more than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause third-degree burns."

Revamped New York State laws, changed in 2009, give local municipalities authority to issue permits for fireworks displays at private events such as weddings and parties.

FASNY offers some tips for safe fireworks enjoyment:

  • Obey and respect any safety barriers set up around a fireworks show site.
  • Don't bring pets. The loud noises can scare animals or damage their hearing.
  • Don't possess or shoot off fireworks on your own. You risk injury to yourself and your friends, and you're breaking the law.
  • Don't attempt to pick up and re-light used fireworks. They may still be active and can cause serious burns.
  • Often, the best view of a professional fireworks display is from a quarter mile or more away.

Parsons says Ithaca neighborhoods have been lucky in recent incidents. "Both fires were put out before they spread to a building," he says. "The lesson to be taken away from all this is that when people launch fireworks there is no telling where they will land, and sometimes unintended fires are started that can endanger other people's homes and lives."

Enjoying the fireworks at Myers Park on the Cayuga Lake shore in Lansing. 14850 Photo.Enjoying the fireworks at Myers Park on the Cayuga Lake shore in Lansing. 14850 Photo.Community fireworks shows in the Ithaca area include Ithaca's annual community fireworks show on Thursday evening at Stewart Park, Lansing's annual fireworks show Thursday at Myers Park, and Candor's fireworks show on Saturday at the American Legion.

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