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Celebrate the 4th of July safely
Mill Creek Firecracker Fest still a go
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 Although fireworks are illegal in Georgia unless one has a permit, there is still danger in using the “legal” sparklers and other novelties.
    Recent rain has dampened some areas a bit, but Bulloch and surrounding counties are still far below the average rainfall, and dry conditions combined with carelessness could lead to unexpected fires and injuries, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
    According to information from Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., more fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year. The most recent statistics available are for 2006, when 32,600 fires across the country were directly linked to fireworks, said Dr. Fred Mullins, president of the corporation.
    In 2008, fire departments across the nation responded to 7,700 house fires involving grills and barbecues, he said.
    “We want the Fourth of July to be a safe, happy time for families to gather and celebrate,” he said. Mullins also serves as Medical Director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga.
    “Maintaining a little common sense and extra precaution during these gatherings can go a long way toward making that happen.”
    Wynn reminds people to be careful when using sparklers, cooking outside, or handling any flammable substance or source of ignition such as matches and lighters.
    Although fireworks are illegal in this state, people will still bring fireworks purchased from neighboring states and set them off. Not only will Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies and Statesboro Police be alert and watching for citizens breaking the law, another hazard connected to setting off fireworks is fire.
    As dry as conditions are, sparks from the fireworks or even legal sparklers can easily set debris aflame, Wynn said.
    If someone is set on breaking the law by detonating fireworks, Mullins offers advice in light of safety.
    “Only set off fireworks outdoors and away from dry grass, structures or people,” he said. “Light fireworks one at a time, and never throw fireworks.”
    Even the legal sparklers can cause harm. In 2007, “… more than 90 percent of the injuries caused by fireworks came from items permitted by law. More than 20 percent were caused by sparklers, while small firecrackers caused another 18 percent,” he said.
    “Some of the worst burns we see are caused by the fireworks that people think are ‘safe’ – things like sparklers and other small items,” he said. “I always tell my family, friends and patients to treat all fireworks like they are the most dangerous thing they have ever touched.”
     If you’re cooking out, check for leaks in fuel lines for gas grills, and never light a grill with the lid closed, Mullins said.  “Trapped gas could cause an explosion. Never pour gasoline on a lit grill, and make sure whoever cooks those hamburgers does wear loose fitting sleeves and uses utensils with long handles to stay clear of the fire.”
     Never leave the grill unattended and dispose of hot coals safely, he added. “These safety tips may seem like common sense, but this year they could mean the difference between an exciting holiday together and a long stay in the hospital or worse.”
    “There is still the concern that fires can get out of hand,” although some areas have seen heavy rains over the past few days, Wynn said. “We hope everyone is careful and has a safe holiday.”
    The safest option for area residents is to enjoy the Firecracker fest at Mill Creek Park Monday night. Activities begin at the park at 4 p.m., with the fireworks display beginning as soon as dark falls.
    Some cities across the south have canceled fireworks displays due to extremely dry conditions, but the long-time annual tradition of fireworks at the park will be repeated Monday night, said  Broni Gainous, marketing and communications coordinator for Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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