The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

June 28, 2013

Be safe when you are celebrating on the 4th

ENID, Okla. — Since the Fourth of July 1777, when Congress first authorized the use of fireworks to celebrate America’s Independence Day, pyrotechnics have become an integral part of observances of this nation’s birth.

The Chinese invented fireworks during the Han dynasty, but Americans have turned their use into a fine celebratory art.

The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that more than 14,000 fireworks displays light up U.S. skies every July Fourth.

And that’s not to mention all the Black Cats, sparklers and bottle rockets employed annually by ordinary Americans.

Unfortunately, many of those Americans will begin their Fourth of July at the lake or a backyard barbecue and wind up in an emergency room or hospital bed.

Fireworks injuries sent more than 5,000 people to emergency rooms in the 30 days surrounding July Fourth 2012, according to new figures released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

More than half of those injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. About 1,000 of the injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets.

And people aren’t the only things igniting as the result of fireworks accidents. In 2011, reports the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 fires nationwide, including 1,200 structure fires, 400 vehicle fires and 16,300 other outdoor blazes.

Between June 15 and July 6 of last year, Enid Fire Department responded to 30 grass fires.

We’ve had some rain lately, but our area still is in the throes of a drought. A dropped sparkler or an errant bottle rocket could cause a rapidly spreading conflagration threatening lives and property.

It is illegal to possess or use fireworks within Enid’s city limits. Violators face a fine of up to $500, plus court costs. It is legal to shoot fireworks elsewhere in the county, but not within 500 feet of any church, hospital, asylum, unharvested, flammable agricultural crop, public school or fireworks stand.

Be safe this Fourth of July. Don’t drink and drive, keep an eye on your kids if you’re at the pool or the lake and leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Enid’s fireworks display will begin at about 9:45 p.m. Thursday at Meadowlake Park, preceded by a performance of patriotic music by the Enid Symphony Orchestra at 8:30.

 That way, you can enjoy all the sound and glorious fury of fireworks, and the only thing you’ll risk is getting stuck in traffic on your way home.

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