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Fireworks Can Present Fire and Burn Threat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Burns from mishandled fireworks are a continual threat, but this year's dry weather means fireworks present a serious fire threat in many areas of the state.
Earlier this year, Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove issued a statewide burn ban, but this was rescinded when certain areas of the state received sufficient rain. However, burn bans remain in many counties still under drought conditions. Because of Fourth of July fireworks sales, many communities have extended burn bans to limit or prohibit the use of fireworks.
According to the Mississippi Forestry Commission, county supervisors issue burning bans at the request or approval of the commission. County sheriffs are responsible for enforcing the ban, which caries a fine of $100 to $500 for violations. County supervisors can lift the ban once the Forestry Commission determines the drought or wildfire conditions no longer exist.
Glenn Hughes, forestry specialist at Mississippi State University's Southeast District Extension office in Hattiesburg, said fire is a serious threat, particularly in South Mississippi.
"We've gotten some rain recently, but it hasn't been enough to eliminate the risk of wildfire," Hughes said. "We were in a severe to extreme drought in mid-June, and the recent rains have not been enough to bring us out of it."
Because of the drought, vegetation is extremely dry, and Hughes said sparks and explosions from fireworks can easily start a fire.
"The law says that if a fire gets out and damages property, the person who set it is responsible for the cost of putting it out and the cost of any damage that may result," Hughes said.
A bigger threat than the fire is the smoke it causes. Smoke from wildfires that drifts across highways and roads can cause accidents. Hughes said lawsuits can make the person who started the fire legally responsible for any wrecks that occur.
"If you're anywhere near a major road, the liability from smoke is much more of a concern to people that burn," Hughes said. "Fire can be a great land management tool, but not under these weather conditions."
Because it is so dry across much of the state, Hughes recommended everyone using fireworks be very careful. Avoid fireworks if a county has issued a burn ban. Even in those without such a ban, consider shooting fireworks over water and be prepared to extinguish a fire if one were to start. Contact the local sheriff to determine if a burn ban is in affect.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., reported there were an estimated 7,000 fireworks- related injuries nationwide in 1998. They offered several tips for the safe use of fireworks, including buying from reliable sellers and never using illegal explosives or homemade fireworks.
The council recommends lighting only one firework at a time and never relighting those that do not work. Don't carry fireworks in pockets or shoot them out of metal or glass containers. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place and dispose of "duds" and unwanted fireworks by soaking them in water and throwing them away.