Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Public safety

Setting off fireworks on the Fourth? Be careful out there

TAMPA — For many, sparklers are a Fourth of July tradition. We light them up and use the bright, crackling wands to write our names in the night sky.

It seems innocent, right?

Wrong. Sparklers, like any fireworks, can be dangerous.

Sparklers burn at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees. That's hot enough to melt some metals. And even though sparklers are usually held by hand, no firework can really be used that way safely, said Milton Jenkins, interim fire marshal for Tampa Fire Rescue.

"Even those little embers can burn you or catch your clothes on fire," Jenkins said.

Each year, thousands of people across the country end their holiday celebrations in the emergency room. In 2011, an estimated 9,600 people were injured by fireworks, and four people died in fireworks-related accidents throughout the year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The best way to keep everyone safe is to keep fireworks away from children, said St. Petersburg Fire Lt. Joel Granata.

Jenkins agrees.

"The most common mistake people make is to allow underage kids to shoot fireworks off without supervision," he said.

Most often, injuries are minor burns to the hands. Injuries to the eyes can occur when bending over fireworks as they are lit.

But it's not just people who are at risk. Straying bottle rockets have caused house fires, Jenkins said.

Trees have also been known to burn when fireworks are shot upward, Granata said.

Even with all the rain that Tropical Storm Debby bestowed, it's still better to play it safe.

"Things dry out pretty quick with a few days of sunshine," Granata said.

Tampa Fire Rescue offers the following safety tips: Never try to relight a firework. Don't point or throw fireworks at another person. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of emergencies. And always make sure fireworks are legal before buying or using them.

That last one can be tricky.

In Florida, it's illegal to buy, sell or explode consumer fireworks — even on your own property. Many retailers get around that by having buyers sign paperwork saying they will use the explosives to scare off birds from a farm or fish hatchery.

Though buyers could still be charged, most Tampa Bay counties don't crack down. Still, officials say to stick with sparklers.

"We say, 'If it goes up and blows up, it's illegal,' " Granata said.

Another alternative? Leave it to the professionals and head out to watch one of the area's fireworks displays.

Just don't forget about the pets left at home.

Noises from fireworks can scare animals. Hillsborough County Animal Services recommends bringing pets indoors by late afternoon and into the night. And keep identification tags on them in case they do run away.

Lastly, remember that guns should never be fired into the sky in celebration, Granata said.

"Lots of people shoot guns off and the bullet has to come down," Granata said. "It's totally illegal. And it's definitely not a good idea."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

Plenty of things to do

Celebrate America's independence with fireworks events and other goings-on across Tampa Bay, powered by tampabay.com/things-to-do. 2B

Busy day on the roads

This Fourth of July week will be the busiest in five years, but a midweek holiday might ease the travel burden. 8B

Comments

Hernando sheriff: Shooter injures three; in standoff with SWAT

BROOKSVILLE — A shooter was on the loose Tuesday night after injuring three victims, according to Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.The sheriff would not say if there were any fatalities.The Sheriff’s Office received a report about the at about 9 p.m. Dep...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sheriff: Pasco man planned, then carried out neighbor’s execution

Sheriff: Pasco man planned, then carried out neighbor’s execution

HOLIDAY — A neighborhood dispute ended in gunfire when one neighbor executed another on Tuesday, deputies said, as the victim kneeled in his own front yard begging for his life.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the execution, which took place ju...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

BRANDON — The 11-month-old girl who drowned in an apartment complex pond on Monday was identified as Deleah Morgan by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.Deputies released no other details about the incident or the ongoing investigation....
Updated: 7 hours ago
Map: Where to park for Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

Map: Where to park for Gasparilla and the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa

The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates and NHL All-Star Weekend overlap Saturday in downtown Tampa. Here are highlights of what to know before you go.GETTING THEREThe parade route runs generally along Bayshore Boulevard north to Ashley Street (In blue on t...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Troopers: U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. now open except for inside lane

Troopers: U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. now open except for inside lane

CLEARWATER — Officials have reopened U.S. 19 at Countryside Blvd. except for the inside lane.  The entire highway was closed for a brief period Tuesday while workers cleaned up a chemical spill after a Terminix truck flipped over. According t...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Man sentenced for smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

Man sentenced for smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

LOS ANGELES — A Southern California man has been sentenced to five months in federal prison for smuggling three highly venomous king cobras hidden in potato chip canisters through the mail.In a plea agreement, Rodrigo Franco admitted smuggling anothe...
Published: 01/23/18
He drove into Tampa Bay and walked away uninjured, troopers say

He drove into Tampa Bay and walked away uninjured, troopers say

A Miami resident lost control of his truck and tumbled into Tampa Bay Tuesday morning — and walked away unscathed.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Osvaldo Jares, 25, fell asleep at the wheel of his 2002 Ford F150 before losing control and dri...
Published: 01/23/18
Parents of 12-year-old Florida girl say she was bullied into suicide

Parents of 12-year-old Florida girl say she was bullied into suicide

Gabriella "Gabbie" Green went to her mother, Tanya Green, for advice on some "girl drama" and harsh text and social media messages she was receiving from classmates at Surfside Middle School in Panama City Beach.Less than an hour after that conversat...
Published: 01/23/18

Truck carrying frozen chickens catches fire on I-75 in Brandon

Southbound lanes on Interstate 75 were closed in Brandon early Tuesday morning after a semi-trailer carrying frozen chickens caught fire.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 52-year-old Brian Keith Jester, of Venice, was driving southbound near S...
Published: 01/23/18

Alaska hit by 7.9 earthquake; tsunami warning canceled

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Alaska’s Kodiak Island early Tuesday, prompting a tsunami warning for a large swath of the state’s coast.Officials at the National Tsunami Center canceled the warning after a few tense hours a...
Published: 01/23/18