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Officials stress fireworks safety

June 28, 2002|by CAILIN MCGOUGH

cailinm@herald-mail.com

Officials in the Tri-State area are stressing safety for the July 4th holiday, urging residents to follow fireworks laws to avoid penalties and injuries.

Ground-based sparkling devices, or GBSD, can be bought and used in Maryland for the first time in 60 years.

A ground-based sparkler is basically any fireworks device that sits on the ground and spews forth sparks, said Capt. Charles Summers of Hagerstown City Police.

Such a device is legal as long as it doesn't launch a projectile or explode, he said.

Maryland is the 35th state to legalize the devices, in spite of the year's drought, Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo said.

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"We have a drought but we can't just say 'You can't use fireworks,'" Zurolo said. "We hope people use their heads. It's just common sense."

The ground-based sparkler joins a short list of fireworks approved for sale in Maryland, including hand-held sparklers that contain no chlorate or perchlorates, snap-n-pops, black snakes and champagne party poppers.

The fireworks laws in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are similar, allowing devices that spark or smoke but not those that explode.

In Pennsylvania, "Basically anything that goes boom is against the law," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Skip Sydnor, who is fire marshal in Franklin County, Pa.

Violations in all three states are misdemeanors punishable by fines of up to $1,000.

Fines are not the only cost of unsafe fireworks use.

"I've seen people blow hands off over the years," Sydnor said. "Each year it's something different."

In 2000, 11,000 fireworks injuries were reported in hospital emergency rooms across the United States. That was a 29 percent increase over the 8,500 reported in 1999, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

Fireworks-related fires have resulted in at least $20 million in property loss every year for the last decade.

Because of those dangers, the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office says it does not condone the use of any fireworks.

"But we are realistic enough to know people are going to go ahead and use them, so we give the public safety advice," West Virginia Deputy State Fire Marshal Carol Nolte said.

  • That advice includes

  • Sparklers and novelties should be used with extreme caution and users should read all instructions.

  • Items must be lighted outside and should not be relighted.

  • Water should be kept nearby and people should stay out of the range of the fireworks.

  • No more than one item should be set off at a time. Fireworks should never be ignited in a container, carried in a pocket or thrown at another person.

  • Unexploded fireworks should not be touched, and homemade fireworks should never be used.

  • Unused fireworks should be kept away from firing areas and stored in a cool, dry place.

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