Now that consumer-grade fireworks are legal to possess in Georgia, some may be confused about what kind to buy and how to handle them safely.
Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn offers advice for safe use of fireworks, along with a list of fireworks now legal in the state.
“In Georgia, all fireworks classified as DOT 1.4G (consumer fireworks) are legal to purchase and use as stated in the Georgia General Assembly House Bill 727,” he said.
This means you can have a Fourth of July fireworks display right in your own back yard, but Wynn warns residents to be careful when handling the explosives.
Some people may choose bottle and sky rockets – small rockets that make a whistling noise and explode; or Roman candles –long tubular fireworks that fire off colorful balls of fire and may crackle or flash, according to Internet website www.artofmanliness.com.
The ever-popular firecrackers just explode and go bang, but they have long been popular, as are sparklers, which are hand-held and emit a shower of sparks.
Fountains emit colorful cascades of sparks, while smoke bombs do just that – smoke. Then there are missiles hat explode in the air and novelty fireworks that create designs, according to the website.
The crackle and strobe fireworks make crackling noises as they emit large strobelike sparks. Parachutes sail into the air and after explosion, fall to the ground with a parachute, to which some kids like to attach things like “green Army men,” the site said.
Wheels and spinners don’t fly into the air, but skim across the ground. Display shells are the fireworks that fly high and explode with colorful designs that seem to hover in the air, and aerial cakes – multiple devise wired together with one fuse to create a series of explosions and displays – are popular as well.
Wynn said Georgia law requires buyers to be 18 years old or older to purchase fireworks. “While the law doesn’t stipulate an exact age for igniting them, keep in mind that the majority of injuries happen to kids under the age of 16.”
It is illegal to light fireworks under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and on July 4, the deadline for firing off the colorful noisemakers is midnight, he said.
On all other days except New Year’s Eve, fireworks may not be set off after 9 p.m. or before 10 a.m., and on New Year’s Eve the curfew for fireworks is 1 a.m., he said.
Some cities or homeowner’s associations may have other rules to follow.
“While it may be legal to set off fireworks at your home, check to see what the laws are for your particular neighborhood,” Wynn said. “Private communities like HOAs, condos or apartment complexes may not allow fireworks at all. Others may allow only a designated spot for lighting fireworks like a parking lot, field or a pool area.”
Georgia also has some places where fireworks are banned, he said. “Do not light fireworks on roads or highways. It is also illegal to light fireworks within 100 yards of a hospital, nursing home, prison, nuclear power plant, gas station or refinery.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, State Parks and Historic Sites, fireworks are strictly prohibited in state parks. “Use of fireworks in other public parks is also prohibited unless you have a special license.”
Local law enforcement, including the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and Statesboro Police Department, will enforce state and local laws this holiday.
“Please handle fireworks responsibly,” said Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead. “Fireworks and alcohol should not mix. We ask that our citizens enjoy their fireworks safely and responsibly.”
They might be legal now, but consumer fireworks are considered hazardous materials (hazmat) division 1.4G explosives,” Wynn said. “Be mindful of the laws when purchasing and lighting them off to ensure the safety of everyone.”
He offered the following tips to make sure your July 4 celebration stays safe: don’t let young children handle fireworks and allow older children to use them only under close adult supervision; wear protective eyewear; never light them indoors and only use them away from people, houses and flammable material.
Also, “Only light one device at a time …maintain a safe distance after lighting and never ignite devices in a container. Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks,” he said.
Other good ideas include soaking unexploded (dud) fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding and keep a bucket of water nearby to fully extinguish fireworks that don't go off or in case of fire.
Another fireworks option, however, is simply let someone else do the work. Most counties and some cities gave public fireworks displays throughout the week of the Independence Day celebration, such as Bulloch County’s Mill Creek Firecracker Fest that lasts most of the day.
“Grab a blanket and a patch of lawn, kick back and let the experts handle the show,” Wynn said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.