07/03/08 — Fireworks displays at home can be risky

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Fireworks displays at home can be risky

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 3, 2008 1:47 PM

There are two kinds of official advice about fireworks -- light only those that are legal, or don't do it at all.

County Communications Supervisor Delbert Edwards supplied the former -- that is, to light the legal kind if choosing to set off pyrotechnics.

"The first thing (Wayne County residents) should do is only use fireworks that are legal to be used in the state of North Carolina," Edwards said. "Really, only adults -- or at the very least, adult supervision -- should be used with fireworks that are legal."

After that, it's about following directions -- including not drinking alcohol, keeping a water hose handy, and not re-lighting "duds," officials said.

But Edwards was also mindful of the drought conditions that still linger over the state, with just Camden, Currituck and Pasquotank counties ranked as "abnormally dry."

Other counties range from "moderate drought" -- like Wayne -- to "exceptional drought," in counties including Buncombe and Cleve-land, according to a state-funded drought group's map.

That persistent dryness is probably what prompted the advice of Brian Haynes, public information officer for the state's Division of Forest Resources.

His take on lighting fireworks, no matter how strong the temptation?

"Not to, to be honest with you," Haynes said. "If you're going to, then you just need to be safe. A paved area would really be ideal. Don't be setting them off near the woods, or grasslands, or farm fields, or wheat fields."

And Haynes wanted Wayne County's residents to realize that a fire, even one they did not mean to set, can result in big fines.

"If you set a fire, accidentally or not, you can personally receive a fine," Haynes said. "A judge could also say to you, 'You need to pay the cost of (fire) suppression as well.'"

And Haynes said fire suppression can carry a hefty price tag. The fire that burned about 41,000 acres about seven miles south of Creswell has a current tally around $4 million, he said.

The Division of Forest Resources is among the first agencies to be contacted in the case of a fire involving a wooded area.

Even in fires much smaller than the one scorching Hyde, Tyrell and Washington counties -- a fire so severe that its smoke drifted over Goldsboro and as far west as Winston- Salem -- cost is still an issue.

And it might also be important to note that like Wayne County, Hyde, Tyrell and Washington all have a "moderate drought," label.

Communications supervisor Edwards, also the chief of Thoroughfare Volunteer Fire Department, echoed Haynes in saying people need to be aware of dry conditions.

"Believe it or not, it is dry," Edwards said. "People need to be careful."