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Officials urge fireworks safety ahead of July 4th

Ray Hennessy

Tomorrow is July 4, and that means a lot of fireworks displays will light up the evening sky in the coming days. Data from the American Pyrotechnics association shows consumer fireworks - that's those firecrackers, bottle rockets and sets sold directly to the public - are expected to exceed$2.4 billion dollarsin revenue this year. And you've probably seen some of those retailers under big tents in parking lots or along the roadside - Arkansas allows fireworks to be sold from June 20th through July 10th. Andrew Horton Deputy Fire Marshal for the City of Fayetteville said regulations for detonating those pyrotechnics can vary depending on where you live.

"Any person under 16 years old can't purchase. They have to be at least 21 years of age. They must be supervised to discharge all the fireworks," Horton said. "Skyrockets and aerial fireworks, like anything attached to a stick like a ball rocket, it can't be discharged within the city limits. A little different rules inside the city limits than out in the county."

While you can purchase fireworks in late June, residents can only set them off from July 1 through the 5th from 10 am to 10 pm. with an hour extension for July 4th.

Horton said throughout the region and state that patchwork of rules can be confusing, with cities like Prairie Grove or Garfield allowing fireworks through July 7th and some places like Van Buren, Alma and Fort Smith where fireworks are prohibited altogether. Most city and county websites offer information on the types of fireworks residents are allowed to use as well as dates and times.

And if a local burn ban has been declared discharging any fireworks is prohibited.

Violating these laws could result in a misdemeanor charge, a fine anywhere between 50 and 200 dollars and up to 90 days in prison.

Horton said there are precautions people can take to mitigate fire hazards, though.

"There's a safety zone, you know," he said. "A clear open field that ideally if you're able to wet down the initial area where you're you're setting them off, discharging them. But some of those rules we kind of put in effect it will help reduce that, like not using those bottle rockets and things on the stick that shoot off, you know, where you're you're you're not as in control when they're when they discharge and shoot off."

He also encourages people to keep a fire extinguisher on hand and to make sure all debris from used fireworks are cooled off or submerged in water people being thrown away. And while potential wild fires are a risk - personal injuries from fireworks are by far the biggest problem on this holiday. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports a yearly average of 20,000 burn injuries from fireworks.

"The types of fireworks that cause the most injuries, believe it or not, are firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets," said Shelly Cordum, chief nursing officer for Northwest Health Medical Center in Springdale. "Those are also significant because there's three of the top items that the general public usually buys to use in their backyard.

She said most of those injuries are among kids under 15, but she encourages people of any age to be cautions when using fireworks.

"First of all, light the fireworks one at a time and then you should move quickly away," she said. "You never want to lean over lit fireworks and if you find unexploded fireworks, never ever relight or handle those. And you want to keep a bucket of water or garden hose near that area when you're lighting the fireworks and definitely never point or throw those fireworks at anyone."

She says with the uptick in injuries around the fourth, that can also mean crowded emergency rooms and long wait times for patients. She said people should be on alert to handle a firework mishap if it happens.

"The first thing you want to do is cool the burn with lukewarm to cool, not cold water to stop the burning process," she said. "And you definitely want to remove the clothing and any jewelry from that injured area. You want to cover it with a clean dry sheet or loose bandage and then you definitely want to seek medical attention immediately, either in an urgent care or one of your local hospitals."

Both Cordum and Horton say the easiest way to stay safe during the holiday though is to attend a public fireworks show instead of doing it yourself.

"You know, we're always going to say basically you should leave it up to a professional," Horton said. "We advise no one to set them off. We especially have drier conditions this year, less rain. It'd be best to go watch a show, a professional viewing."

Ozarks at Large transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. The authoritative record of KUAF programming is the audio record.

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Daniel Caruth is KUAF's Morning Edition host and reporter for Ozarks at Large<i>.</i>