July 4 fireworks are such a tradition that I can't imagine the holiday without it. In fact, I honestly can't remember a summer when I didn't hear the thunderous booms and see the colorful displays of fireworks exploding all around my suburban home. However, as temperatures skyrocket and drought conditions worsen, many towns, cities, and communities are canceling their Fourth of July celebrations for fear that one burning ember could spark a raging inferno.
In addition to canceling annual fireworks displays, state and city officials from Utah to Indiana to Kentucky have asked that people not use roman candles, sparklers, or firecrackers in their backyards, especially in areas that have been heavily affected by the lack of rain and sweltering heat. This year, they say, is particularly dangerous for such shenanigans.
The concern also applies to the West Coast, as well. Authorities are still attempting to get a handle on the Colorado wildfires that have damaged countless homes and scorched approximately 1.8 million acres thus far. Adding fireworks displays into the mix could potentially lead to more disasters, prompting officials to cancel scheduled celebrations.
For those who make their living from the sale of fireworks, the bans have been particularly devastating. A number of businesses have seen their profits plummet thanks to area-wide cancellations. For example, Paul Forman, who owns Fireworks and Forman Blasters Pyrotechnics in Peru, Indiana, stated that his business has taken a tremendous hit from the numerous bans and cancellations. The same can be said for a number of individuals who look for summer fireworks sales to carry them through the rest of the year.
However, because safety always comes first, it makes sense that such displays are being cancelled in the wake of the extreme heat and lack of adequate rainfall. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks accounted for nearly 15,500 blazes and $36 million in property damage in 2010 alone. Given this year's conditions, experts believe that number could increase substantially if actions are not taken.
Regardless of these bans, people are still going to rush out to the local grocery store and pick up something to ignite on the fourth. I don't care how many bans are in place -- it's going to happen. If you insist on doing so, here are some safety tips you should consider:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.