Don't let the Fourth go up in flames

STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Noah Parrott, 4, makes his fireworks selections on behalf of his parents at the Wacky Wayne's story on Whiskey Road on Wednesday.

As the nation celebrates its independence today, the skies will light up with brilliant displays of fireworks, but authorities have a few things you should keep in mind to make sure your night doesn't end in the hospital.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more fires are reported in the United States on a typical Independence Day than on any other day of the year, and fireworks account for two out of five of the fires, more than any other cause.

The Aiken Department of Public Safety has not responded to calls involving injuries from fireworks in recent years, according to Capt. David Turno. Most calls the department receives involve people using fireworks illegally inside the city limits.

“We're fortunate we've had the rain we've had, so there's not the dry conditions to be concerned with,” Turno said.

Firecrackers are allowed in many of the unincorporated parts of Aiken County, but there are some other rules and regulations residents should be aware of before lighting up.

All firecrackers more than a quarter-inch in outside diameter are banned by a City of Aiken ordinance. They can be no more than 2 inches long and can contain no more than 4 grams of explosives.

Fourth of July revelers are also asked to be courteous of their neighbors when using fireworks. Anyone who violates the City ordinance could face a fine of up to $445.

“Be mindful and respectful of your neighbors,” Turno said. “People continue to do them late in the evening. You have to respect that people have to get up and work the next day.”

Fireworks pose many safety hazards, especially to children. Turno said a common mistake people make is not shooting fireworks in a proper stand.

“A lot of times you see them wanting to hold them, and that's dangerous,” he said, adding that some people try to discharge fireworks from moving vehicles, which is dangerous and illegal.

He added that it's good to keep a bucket of water around, and not to handle fireworks when they're still hot. Also, be careful not to step on them with bare feet.

“Every Fourth of July, thousands of children and adults are treated in emergency rooms for fireworks injuries, mostly burns to hands, head and face,” said Rene Hopkins, a nurse educator and coordinator of Safe Kids Greater Augusta, led by Children's Hospital of Georgia. “Unless you are a pyrotechnic professional, you should not play around with these dangerous devices.”

Hopkins encouraged extra caution with sparklers, which can reach temperatures of 1,200 degrees and often burn children's arms.

In addition to fireworks, grills and food are another big part of Independence Day celebrations. Turno said authorities have responded to fires caused by grills in the past, though not necessarily on the Fourth of July.

A common mistake people make with grills is having the grill up against a house or under a porch, Turno said. Also, people often leave gas grills on after cooking, so make sure it's turned off when you're finished cooking, he said.

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.