06/25/07 — Snap, crackle and pop

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Snap, crackle and pop

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 25, 2007 1:46 PM

Wayne County Fire Marshal Bryan Taylor remembers the day he responded to a fireworks display gone bad.

"It was the dry season like we're having now. School was not out yet. Some high school kids were playing with firecrackers, throwing them in the yard," he said.

The grass caught fire and burned the back yard, the doghouse and pen. The pet was rescued, but before firefighters could control it, the blaze proceeded to the tree line, where the owner's yard equipment was destroyed.

That fire sticks out in Taylor's mind, but there have been others.

And now as fire marshal, Taylor is facing another July 4 holiday knowing that injuries and the fires from improper use of fireworks normally come this time of year.

Taylor normally goes through the county checking the stores that carry fireworks to see how much gunpowder is in them.

There was a time when no fireworks were allowed in North Carolina, Taylor said, but the law has since changed and sales are allowed as long as the gunpowder is under 1.4 grams.

Residents can't buy anything in North Carolina that flies into the air.

Residents can also use an explosive cap designed for a cap pistol as long as there's no more than .25 grams of gunpowder per cap. Snake and glow works are also allowed, as are smoke bombs and party poppers. Snappers, also called drop pops, which are tossed onto hard surfaces, also are permitted, as are the traditional sparklers.

But beware, Taylor said. Sparklers are not as innocent as they might seem.

He said they can reach 1,800 degrees, hot enough to melt gold.

The fire marshal said most of the injuries he encounters are from burns, although he added that precautions should be taken whenever anyone uses fireworks outdoors because of the potential fire risk.

Special permits are given for the fireworks displays run by communities and private groups. Displays are scheduled for Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Pikeville. The towns provide inspectors for Goldsboro and Mount Olive, but Taylor issued the permit for Pikeville, which will have its Independence Day celebration Saturday .

"The size of the shell being used determines how far back the spectators have to be," Taylor said. "For a 6-inch shell, you have to stand back 600 feet. Pikeville is going to use up to an 8-inch shell that you can see from Goldsboro when they explode."

But in addition to legal fireworks, there are plenty of illegal displays around town, Taylor said.

The rules don't normally stop people who want to make the two-hour drive to South Carolina where they can find anything allowed by federal law like firecrackers and bottle rockets and Roman candles, which contain propellants.

"Anything with a 'bang' is illegal (in North Carolina)," Taylor said. "But people go on vacation, stop and pick them up and bring them back with them."

Meanwhile, tents will be going up this week with tables loaded with fireworks.

And you can have a safe July 4 fireworks experience in your own back yard if you take precautions:

*Fireworks allowed in North Carolina are usually safe as long as you read and follow the directions. Use as intended, and don't throw them at each other.

*Adults should not only supervise but do the lighting of the fireworks for children.

*Clear the area at least 30 feet around any fountain sparkler you light. You don't want any buildings, vehicles or shrubbery any closer than that.

*Always have water available either via water hose or a bucket. And if a dud fails to light, soak it in water about 15 minutes and dispose of it.

*Use fireworks only outdoors.