Fire marshal urges caution when using fireworks

June 30, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION |

HAGERSTOWN — Fireworks on the Fourth of July are a tradition, but Bruce Bouch wants people to enjoy them in a safe manner.

Bouch, a spokesman for the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, said he encourages people to view free, public displays of fireworks instead of setting them off themselves.

“That way, there are no injuries,” Bouch said.

But for those intent on setting off their own fireworks, Bouch offered some advice.

In Maryland, fireworks that shoot into the air and explode are illegal for private use, Bouch said.

“No bottle rockets, no mortars,” Bouch said.

The city of Hagerstown falls under the same rules, city Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven said.

It is illegal in Hagerstown to possess any fireworks prohibited under Maryland law, DeHaven said.

Police have the authority to issue citations to people for discharging illegal fireworks, and a fine of $250 per firework can be levied, Bouch and DeHaven said.

Those who receive the citations must go to court to answer to the violation, Bouch said.

The types of fireworks that generally are allowed in Maryland are ground-based sparklers and novelty items such as “snakes,” Bouch said.

He suggested that people buy fireworks in the jurisdiction where they plan to set them off to be sure they are allowed in that area. Residents can also contact government officials in their communities to determine what kind of fireworks are allowed, Bouch said.

Ground-based sparklers and small novelty fireworks are allowed in Hagerstown, DeHaven said.

Bouch noted that even sparklers, a favorite of children, can be dangerous. Sparklers can reach a temperature of 1,200 degrees, and coming in contact with them can cause severe burns and permanent bodily damage, Bouch said.

Bouch suggested that those who set of fireworks use a bucket filled with water to extinguish fireworks after they are discharged. There have been instances of people putting discharged fireworks in trash containers, thinking they were out, only to have a fire erupt later.

Because Hagerstown has many areas where buildings are close together, DeHaven suggested lighting fireworks in an open area such as a parking lot.

Fireworks should be used by adults and, at the very least, there should be adult supervision, DeHaven said.

More information on fireworks safety can be found on the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s webpage at

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