07/02/10 — Officials: Caution a must around fireworks

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Officials: Caution a must around fireworks

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 2, 2010 1:46 PM

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Matt Coakley, right, Brittany Snyder and Aidan Snyder enjoy fireworks during the Fourth of July Festival on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro Thursday.

While Wayne County has been lucky for the past few years with fireworks, with no reported major injuries, great care is still needed when using them.

Goldsboro Fire Department Capt. Bernard Patterson said most of his experience with pyrotechnics comes from his time in the military.

"Me, personally, I don't like fireworks, because I've seen first-hand what they can do. I've seen people's fingers get blown off. But you know, people, they're going to play with that type of stuff, and I understand that."

Patterson said that while the Goldsboro area has not had any recent tragedies with pyrotechnics, Wednesday's incident with fireworks that ignited in the back of a pickup truck indicates just how quickly a tragedy could strike.

While the owner avoided a major fire Wednesday, the episode serves as an illustration of the care needed when dealing with pyrotechnics, the captain said.

"You've got to be careful of that stuff. All of them have instructions on how to shoot them off and use them, and you should go by those instructions," he said.

Sheriff Carey Winders said that watching out for children, who are almost always fascinated by fireworks displays, should be top priority for people who use them.

"Children need to be supervised," he said. "A lot of accidents do occur, even with your smaller fireworks. Anything that you set on fire can pose a danger."

The sheriff urged the public to make sure they stayed within the bounds of the law when using fireworks, and also noted some might have unintended results.

"It's really hard to tell, because you don't know what a (fireworks unit) is going to do until you light it up," Winders said.

The sheriff also warned citizens not to re-light "duds," or fireworks that did not go off as expected.

Highway Patrol First Sgt. Jerry Burton said the Highway Patrol does not typically have to respond to fireworks calls, but said troopers will help with traffic at the county's major fireworks displays.

Brian Haynes, a spokesman for the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, said that great care needs to be exercised with fireworks -- and that residents could be subject to fines or other penalties if their display causes a major fire.

Both Haynes and Patterson said that wetter conditions will make fireworks displays relatively safer this year, as compared to the drought conditions of years past.

"People should be extra diligent to make sure that they're doing things in the proper way," Haynes said. "Things can go up (in flames) fast."

Patterson agreed that the wet conditions of the past week are a "positive."

"When you've had a dry spell, there would be more precautions," he said. "They would usually issue a no burning ordinance for the county, if it was really hot and dry."

The captain said even with the wet conditions, citizens need to be reminded that fire is never a toy.

"Just be cautious of what you do," Patterson said. "I guess people think of them as toys, as something to play with. But they are pyrotechnics, and they're dangerous, and you should use as much caution as possible."