Experts urge citizens to put safety first when using fireworks

COVINGTON -- Despite the fact that only sparklers and non-explosive fireworks are legal in Georgia, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is reminding the public that even these fireworks can cause injuries.

"Even legal fireworks should only be used with close adult supervision," he said. "For the sake of safety and seeing a spectacular display, your best bet is to attend a professional show."

Hudgens also said consumers may be confused when they discover certain types of fireworks on sale at retail outlets near the Georgia state lines.

"Sparklers and fountains are not classified as fireworks by law and are legal and available for sale or use in Georgia," Hudgens said.

The law states that the definition of prohibited fireworks shall not include: "Wire or wood sparklers of 100 grams or less of mixture per item; other sparkling items which are non-explosive and non-aerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes; snake and glow worms; trick noise makers which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers and drop pops each consisting of 0.25 grains or less of explosive mixture."

But, the commissioner warned that sparklers can burn at temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees and must be used properly and with adult supervision.

"Around 8,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for fireworks-related injuries," Hudgens said, adding that most fireworks injuries occur during the four-week period surrounding the Fourth of July. "And most of those incidents involve children."

Also, on the Fourth of July itself, fireworks usually start more fires nationwide than all other causes combined.

The sale and use of most consumer types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, is illegal in Georgia and punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

Many citizens ignore fireworks laws and choose to use fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday. The American Red Cross has issued the following safety tips for those using fireworks at home:

-- Never give fireworks to small children and always follow instructions on the packaging.

-- Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.

-- Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.

-- Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight a "dud."

-- Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.

-- Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.

-- Leave any area immediately when untrained amateurs are using fireworks.