07/03/06 — Fireworks legal, but there are safety rules

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Fireworks legal, but there are safety rules

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on July 3, 2006 1:50 PM

Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks is legal in North Carolina -- but only with many precautions, local officials say.

The only legal fireworks are those with 200 grams or less of chemical compound. These include sparklers, fountains, glow worms, snap pops and other similar novelty devices that do go far into the air.

A few people are charged each year in Goldsboro with possession of illegal pyrotechnic devices, or the larger fireworks, police Maj. Mike Hopper said.

Cities and towns across the state conduct annual fireworks shows, but these are done by professionals who must go through a permitting procedure from the city council or county commission before they are allowed.

"You just can't have anyone put on a show," Hopper said. "You have to think where the fireworks will fall so that cars and buildings are not damaged."

The annual July 4 fireworks show at Berkeley Mall will be overseen by a police and Fire Department action plan, Hopper said. A Fire Department engine company will be assigned to stand by in case of trouble.

While most fireworks are illegal in North Carolina, legal fireworks are sold from tents and storefronts, especially around July 4.

One such legal operation has been in the Pinewood Square parking lot in the 900 block of North Spence Avenue, where volunteers from The Lord's Vineyard Church on Salem Church Road have been selling fireworks for two weeks before July 4 for 11 years.

The fireworks are legal in North Carolina because they make a noise but do not go into space. They have been approved by the county fire marshal. They cost between 99 cents for one to $99.99 for a variety pack. No limit is placed on purchasers.

Two volunteers, Raylene Tyner of Pikeville and Becky Edwards of Fremont, explained that the congregation has raised enough money from the project to build a new church. They work two or four-hour shifts and said "it was a labor of love."

The devices and the big tent are supplied by American Promotional Events of Cary.

"The company provides everything. All we have to do is take care of the tent," Ms. Tyner said.

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Long said such larger devices as firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, ground spinners and mortars are illegal. Long said these devices also cause serious injuries, many affecting children and teenagers.

Long said permanent eye damage, serious burns and lifelong scars can result from improper or careless use of fireworks.

Officials urged these safety precautions:

*Young children should not be allowed to play with or ignite fireworks.

*Adults should supervise fireworks displays.

*Fireworks that have not fully discharged should not be picked up and re-lighted.

*Fireworks should not be pointed or thrown at people or animals.

*A water bucket hose should be kept nearby.

*Only one item should be lighted at a time.

*Fireworks should not be carried in a pocket or shot in metal or glass containers.

Some people also will drive to South Carolina to buy larger fireworks and bring them back home. Hopper said possession of those fireworks in North Carolina is illegal.

"The best thing," Hopper said, "is let the professionals do it. There will be shows all over the state."