Safely celebrating: Ardmore officials urge individuals to refrain from using consumer fireworks, illegal within city limits
With reminders to social distance and adhere to public health guidelines amid 4th of July celebrations this year, officials are warning against the use of fireworks by those staying at home.
Usage of fireworks at home is not only dangerous, but is illegal within Ardmore city limits. “As far as our city ordinance in Ardmore, it’s illegal to even possess those fireworks,” said Ardmore Police Department Sgt. Juan Galicia.
Galicia has been on patrol on the 4th of July for the past couple of years. The department typically gets an abundance of fireworks calls, along with shots fired calls due to the loud noises and calls regarding disturbing the peace when it gets later in the night.
“We understand that people are trying to celebrate the 4th of July and all of that, but try to figure out a way — I don’t know if with COVID they’re going to put on any type of fireworks shows — but if you can get out in the country and be safe about it,” Galicia said.
Ardmore Fire Marshall Tim Lee said the fire department typically encourages individuals to attend firework displays put on by trained professionals.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires and 17,100 outside and other fires. These fires caused five deaths, and U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 non-occupational fireworks related injuries.
Lee said these injuries are typically to the head, face, neck area and hands, and a large portion of injuries are caused by sparklers. “Sparklers are really dangerous. They seem pretty innocent but they’re a lot more dangerous than we think,” he said.
According to the NFPA, sparklers burn as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause third-degree burns. While sparklers are often thought to be harmless enough for children, children ages 10 to 14 had the highest rate of fireworks injury in 2018, with more than one-third of the victims of fireworks injuries under age 15.
Lee suggested glow sticks as a safe alternative to sparklers and stressed supervision of children around fireworks. The NFPA also encourages individuals to find safe and creative alternatives for celebrating the holiday if they are not attending a professional display.
Those outside the city limits can legally launch fireworks if they choose, but should do so safely. Fire danger is always high around this time of year, Lee said. One spark on any debris around a home or dry grass can cause a full fledged fire.
“I think common sense kind of goes in hand with that,” Galicia said. “Obviously you don’t want to be out there firing fireworks in a bunch of dry grass or hay or anything like that. You’re going to want to find a good place with healthy grass or put down plywood where you’re going to be lighting your big fireworks.”
Firework incidents also place an increased burden on first responders and emergency room staff, said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA, in a press release.
“First responders and our health care services have been working tirelessly to protect the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Carli said. “A great way for people to show their support is to avoid consumer use of fireworks and help minimize the number of avoidable incidents that require response and care.”
Officers with the Ardmore Police Department confiscate fireworks on the 4th of July and, as always, will be out patrolling again this year. Galicia said individuals can and will be cited for using fireworks within city limits. Individuals are typically given a warning and if usage continues or the issue continues, they are issued a citation.
“Fireworks cause thousands of needless fires and injuries each year,” Carli said. “By simply choosing not to use consumer fireworks, these types of incidents can be easily prevented, lessening the strain on already overtaxed first responders and emergency room workers.”