Fireworks fun begins with safety

Thomas Howard / The Meridian Star

Doug Sikes points out some of the fireworks popular with customers this year at his fireworks stand on Dale Drive in Marion.

As Lauderdale County residents look forward to welcoming the new year with a blast of fireworks, local officials are sharing some basic tips to keep the celebrations safe.

Lauderdale County Emergency Management Deputy Director Greg Chatham, who served as a forestry firefighter for 29 years and has operated a fireworks business for 25 years, said fireworks are a lot of fun when used safely.

“The main thing I recommend is read and follow the directions on every firework,” he said. “Fireworks are very safe when used properly.”

When setting off fireworks, Chatham said it’s important to look up, making sure there is nothing a firework could hit after it's been launched. Fireworks should be kept clear of tree branches, power lines and other overhead obstructions, he said.

Chatham said residents should make sure children have adult supervision, keep water on hand and make sure to stay clear of lit fireworks until they’re fully burned out.

Fireworks can be distressing to animals, Chatham said, so residents should make sure their pets and livestock are cared for and secure before beginning their firework show.

“Be respectful of pets,” he said. “Make sure the dogs are cared for.”

Meridian Fire Chief Jason Collier said residents should remember fireworks are not allowed in the city limits.

“You can do it in the county, but you can’t even have fireworks in the city,” he said.

Collier said the city ordinance banning fireworks was due to the lack of space needed to safely shoot off the pyrotechnics.

“There’s really no room,” he said. “The houses are too close together.”

Meridian residents can, however, enjoy fireworks in the county, Collier said. For residents heading out of town, Collier advised them to find a spot away from vehicles and homes, keep an eye on the weather and have a bucket of water on hand in case of emergency.

Both Collier and Chatham urged residents to use good judgement celebrating the holiday and to avoid the combination of fireworks and alcohol.

“Alcohol and fireworks don’t mix well,” Chatham said.

Other safety tips include:

•Don’t handle lit fireworks

•Keep unlit fireworks away from lit fireworks

•Never relight fireworks

•Wait until fireworks are finished before approaching

•Keep spectators away from the lighting area

•Do not point fireworks at other people

•Make sure children are properly supervised

•Remember that fireworks are hot. Even sparklers can exceed 1000 degrees.

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