The Fourth of July marks a time when Americans celebrate the day, in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. People all around the country celebrate the freedom and liberty that came when the United States became an independent nation.
And as the fireworks nationwide explode in the night skies, commemorating the “bombs bursting in air,” many around West Baton Rouge Parish will be blowing up fireworks of their own.
Charles Stephens, who officially became the West Baton Rouge Fire District Chief on July 1, said that during the holiday, people should be extremely careful handling fireworks of all kinds.
“When dealing with fireworks – they’re great, it’s great entertainment as a family – but it has its inherent dangers,” Stephens said. “And as long as everybody follows the safety rules when it comes to dealing with fireworks, injuries should not occur.”
Ron Spire, manager of Louisiana Fireworks on Westport Drive, said that though he’s in the business of selling fireworks, he cannot stress enough the importance of safety when dealing with fireworks.
“One of the things that we stress to the families is that all fireworks should be shot with the supervision of adults. We don’t want any kids to get hurt,” Spire said, adding that most injuries throughout the country occur either because of a lack of supervision or the fireworks being used differently than they were meant to be used. “Fireworks should be used as they are packaged. Sometimes people want to make them into something that they’re not. They should be shot off just the way they are.”
Stephens agreed, saying that directions should be read, understood, and followed when operating fireworks, as many are explosives.
“Roman candles and things like that – fireworks that are supposed to be placed in a container before they are released – those are not made for us to hold in our hand and fire them at our friends,” Stephens said. “They’re not toys. They’re not something to be aimed at others. They can cause serious injuries.
“In the safe world, we’re supposed to read the label to make sure we know how to properly use the firework and that we’re not holding any fireworks in our hands that are not supposed to be held,” he said.
Spire agreed, saying “All fireworks have directions. They tell you where the fuse is. They give you direction as to what you can do and what you can’t do with that particular firework.”
Spire, who is from Chanute, Kan., said that one of the most common questions posed to him is people asking where they can ignite their fireworks.
Port Allen Mayor Richard Lee said that Port Allen’s city limits are not one of the areas fireworks are allowed.
“Fireworks are not permitted in city limits,” Lee said. “It’s a violation.”
Lee said instead of allowing fireworks in the city, Port Allen hosts the Fourth Fest, which occurs at the Port Allen Old Ferry Landing and boasts a large fireworks display to end the event.
“The fireworks law is not lax on certain days of the year,” he said. “That’s why they have the event on the levee.”
Brusly Mayor Joey Normand said that Brusly, too, has a strict “no fireworks” ordinance within town limits.
“Fireworks are not allowed in town limits,” he said.
The town of Addis and the unincorporated areas of West Baton Rouge Parish, however, are permitted to have fireworks.
“People can shoot fireworks here,” said Addis Mayor David Toups. “The only time we don’t do it is if the state issues a burn ban, then we’ll follow suit with that and not allow fireworks; but we don’t have anything on the books that disallows fireworks.”
The ordinance books for the parish also allow the use of fireworks.
Sharon Zito, Parish Council Clerk, said that in unincorporated areas, outside of Port Allen and Brusly limits, fireworks are OK.
Stephens said that people that do operate fireworks during the holidays should practice caution.
“Parents should never allow children to play with fireworks by themselves,” he said, adding that “parents need to understand the temperatures that sparklers can give off - at least 1800-2000 degrees Fahrenheit on the tip of a live sparkler is not uncommon.”
Stephens also said that dud fireworks can be dangerous, as they may explode up to 15 minutes after being ignited.
“Someone may be wanting to pick up a dud, but they should leave those fireworks that did not pop – leave them where they are. The general rule is leave them there for at least 15 or 20 minutes to make sure they won’t go off,” Stephens said. “All misfired duds; drop and soak them in water before getting rid of them.”
Spire said that he sees thousands of people come through his facility, which is the only indoor firework facility in the area, to purchase fireworks especially on July 3-4, and he knows his product is meant for fun but he said he understands they can be dangerous if not used correctly.
Stephens said that he is happy to have families in the area having fun, but hopes that every person using fireworks this season will use caution and safety measures.
“We do that and everybody will have a great time and nobody will get hurt,” he said.