Fire chief gives safety tips for New Year’s fireworks

Published 10:30 am Saturday, December 31, 2022

Though many will celebrate New Year’s Eve with a fireworks show at their homes, citizens should make sure they are using them responsibly. By checking with their local ordinances and handling fireworks in a safe, dry environment, everyone can enjoy the holiday without incident.

LaFayette Fire Chief James Doody recommends checking local laws before buying or using fireworks. In LaFayette, the use and storing of fireworks is prohibited unless the fire department provides a permit.

“We prefer to be notified if a church is doing a function or something. We support those events, but we need to know about it. The permit needs to be issued, and if required, we can be out there on standby,” Doody said.

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Doody advised citizens to leave the fireworks to the professionals. However, he said people who do light fireworks should designate a safety perimeter, watch for dry weather or high winds and walk the perimeter afterward to look out for smoldering embers.

“That’s always a concern for us because, you know, they don’t always go straight up in the air and everything right now, with this time of year, is pretty dry,” Doody said.

Doody referenced statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, citing that 18,500 fires are reported related to fireworks on an average yearly basis.

“The biggest thing is safety so that no one gets hurt, and we just don’t get overwhelmed with EMS calls because people are being injured by these fireworks,” said Valley Police Department Captain Stacy Shirey said.

Doody said the use of sparklers should always be under the surveillance of an adult. According to the fire chief, sparklers burn at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and account for more than 25% of firework-related ER visits.

“They need to be really supervised because they can be really dangerous in the hands of young children,” Shirey said.

Doody also suggests keeping a bucket of water nearby in case of an emergency and lighting fireworks one at a time, then moving away quickly. 

Shirey said citizens should be mindful of their surroundings while handling fireworks. Many times, errant fireworks can lead to property damage as well as bodily injury. Doody said people should move at least 150 feet away when using aerial fireworks. 

“Be mindful of the direction that you’re shooting them in. They could cause fires or damage to other people’s property or residences and cars,” Shirey said. “And that goes for shooting them at each other also.”

Doody referenced the NFPA’s report on fireworks injuries by body part. Injuries to hands and fingers are 28% of all wounds, while legs account for 24%.

Shirey also warned that lit fireworks could inadvertently ignite a nearby cache and get out of control. Doody said that ‘dud’ fireworks are still safety hazards and should be discarded by submerging them in water. People should also never handle fireworks while impaired by drugs or alcohol. 

Valley also has an ordinance against the use of fireworks within city limits. However, on holidays like New Year’s Eve, Shirey said they understand that people will be out celebrating.

“We do understand that there are certain holidays that fireworks go hand in hand,” Shirey said. 

However, the VPD asks citizens to be mindful of their neighbors and stop shooting fireworks soon after midnight. Shirey said the police department is inundated by complaints of the noise on New Year’s Eve.

“Once the fireworks start about dark, we began receiving calls immediately, and it doesn’t stop until the fireworks stop. So the dispatch will usually get several calls per hour in reference to fireworks being shot,” Shirey said.

Doody reminded citizens not to forget about their pets. Doody said pets should be kept indoors with the curtains closed.

“A lot of people are concerned about pets. That can be extremely stressful,” Doody said. 

Shirey discouraged citizens from shooting guns into the air. Shirey said not only is it a violation of city ordinance to fire a gun unsafely within the city, but it is also dangerous.