Firefighters urge caution on Fourth of July

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SANDPOINT — Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks, cookouts and community events can quickly turn to disaster if proper precautions are not taken.

“Safe and sane fireworks are legal in our area,” said Selkirk Fire, Rescue and EMS Battalion Chief Kevin Amorebieta in a recent statement. “Legal or not, if you decide to ignore these words of caution and set off your own fireworks display, precautions need to be taken, and taken seriously. While pretty, fireworks can be very, very dangerous.”

Unfortunately, Amorebieta said, Independence Day is one of the busiest days of the year for firefighters.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more fires are reported on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year, and two out of five are fireworks-related incidents.

In 2015, fireworks were involved in an estimated 10,500 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments annually, according to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of the estimated 10,500 injured, 35 percent of victims with fireworks injuries were under 15. Children should never play with fireworks, Amorebieta said. Even sparklers can reach 1,200-degrees Fahrenheit.

Amorebieta said to "only call 911 for potentially life-threatening situations," so firefighters can respond quickly when lives are in danger.

"If you are reporting a noise complaint, there is another number to call for that," Amorebieta said.

For all non–life-threatening situations, call the non-emergency Bonner County Dispatch number 208-265-5525.

For more information about fireworks safety, go to nfpa.org/fireworks. To check the legality of fireworks by state, go to usfireworks.biz/legal/legal.htm.

For those who insist on setting off their own fireworks, the National Fire Protection Association recommends taking the following precautions: 

• Only buy fireworks from a licensed seller — not from someone on the street or from someone’s house.

• Read and follow the directions on the fireworks before lighting them.

• Have water handy in case of an emergency.

• Only use fireworks in an open, outdoor area.

• Light the fireworks on a hard surface and be cautious of any wind.

• Have a designated person to set off the fireworks who avoids alcohol and does not wear loose clothing.

• Make sure that the designated person wears safety goggles and close-toed shoes.

• Do not alter or combine fireworks.

• Aim the fireworks away from houses, dry leaves, flammable materials and people.

• Never extend a body part over the device.

• Light one firework at a time.

• Never relight a “dud” firework.

• Wait 20 minutes after setting off the firework to approach it, and then soak it in water.

The best way to enjoy fireworks and prevent injury, Amorebieta said, is to watch a professional show.

“Consumer fireworks are dangerous, and the risks to personal safety and the safety of the community are significant,” Amorebieta said.

Some shows in the area include the Lions Club show at Sandpoint City Beach at dusk, Silverwood Theme Park's "Fireworks Extravaganza" at dusk, as well as the shows in Garfield Bay, Clark Fork and Priest River just after dark.

The Sandpoint celebrations starts in the morning with the children's parade at 9 a.m. and the grand parade at 10 a.m., free ice cream for the kids around 2 p.m. at City Beach, and a raffle prize drawing just before the fireworks show.

Garfield Bay also has a full day of events planned, with a pancake breakfast in the park from 8-10 a.m., parade at 11 a.m., free hot dogs and drinks at Odie's from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., ice cream social from 1-2 p.m., adult-only horseshoe tournament at 1 p.m. and music in the park, 4-6 p.m.

Clark Fork events also begin early with the Haden's Heart 5k fun run at 7 a.m., a parade at 9:30 a.m., followed by foot races, food and raffles at the high school. At 1 p.m., an airplane drop will be held on the Clark Fork ball field, where a small plane will shower the field with coupons for snacks and drinks at local businesses. Other entertainment throughout the day includes watermelon eating contests, frog and turtle races, tug-of-war and money-in-the-hay games, a dunk tank and logging competitions.

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