Mix Of Fireworks, Debris, And Drought Worries Firefighters - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mix Of Fireworks, Debris, And Drought Worries Firefighters

Flying the U.S. flag, enjoying a juicy watermelon and visiting with friends is a perfect formula to celebrate Independence Day. But it's the mixture of extremely dry weather conditions, hurricane debris and fireworks that has firefighters concerned this Fourth of July.

"Fireworks are always a safety concern," according to Ray Watson, Jackson County's Fire District Coordinator. "But this year, they pose a real and serious threat of sparking wildfires or structure fires. Residents must be aware of the risk they're taking by shooting fireworks in these conditions."

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire Mississippi Coast is experiencing "extreme drought conditions" with rainfall totals 16 inches to two feet below normal. There are also thousands of pounds of hurricane debris still on the ground.

These factors forced the Board of Supervisors to declare a burn ban on May 26, which is still in effect. It's also illegal to shoot or ignite fireworks in all four cities in Jackson County.

Ocean Springs Fire Chief Mark Hare says law enforcement is looking at fireworks differently this year.

"In the past, fires caused by fireworks were generally considered accidental. But this year with these conditions, people will be held personally responsible for their actions if they cause damage. I'm asking residents to go without using fireworks at home this year," Hare said.

Residents can still get there fireworks fix by attending two professional shows in the county. Both the cities of Pascagoula and Ocean Springs will brighten up the night sky with brilliant colors and echoing booms on July 4 with free shows on the beach starting after dusk.

If citizens choose to stay at home, and risk shooting fireworks, firefighters offer these safety tips.

Pay special attention to bottle rockets and sparkers. One misaimed rocket could easily fly into a dry area, explode and then start a fire.

Don't under estimate the dangers of sparklers. When lit, some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 to 1,800 degrees. This is 200 degrees hotter than a butane lighter. Also remember to:

  • Buy fireworks from reliable sellers with a proven reputation
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place read and follow label directions
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on-hand
  • Light one firework at a time and never try to re-light a "dud"
  • Never throw or point fireworks at other people
  • Never shoot fireworks into metal or glass containers
  • Wear eye protection when igniting fireworks
  • Ignite sparklers and other legal novelties outdoors on a flat, hard surface in an open area away from grass and other combustibles
  • Never allow children to use sparklers without adult supervision
  • Soak used fireworks in water for approximately 15 minutes before throwing them away
  • Never experiment with or make homemade fireworks
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket
  • Call 911 immediately if a fire starts or someone gets hurt
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