If fireworks displays are in your entertaining plans this week, make sure taking safety precautions is also present on the itinerary. Grand Rapids Fire Department Fire Inspector Ted Jensen says dry weather and fireworks can take a gathering from playful to dangerous in no time.
Jensen says before property owners display fireworks, they should wet down the surrounding area, and keep the garden hose charged and ready to extinguish any fires that could occur, including grass fires or fires started due to fireworks landing on building roofs.
Arial fireworks require seventy feet of clearance for each inch of the shell from the place where they are lit. Jensen recommends using candle or grill lighters to start the fuse in order to put more distance between the firework and the person lighting it. "Wear cotton clothing. Polyester tends to melt," he says.
Fountain fireworks and other fireworks that ignite on the ground can burn up to one thousand degrees. Allow thirty feet between spectators and the burning firework. Children are especially vulnerable to sparks and flames shooting from ground fireworks. "It can get in eyes and burn the skin. Especially young skin is very soft and can burn easily," Jensen says.
Sparklers burn at twelve hundred degrees, twice the temperature at which wood burns. Keep a coffee can or bucket full of water or sand for sparklers after they are done burning. The tip of the wire will still be hot, Jensen says. Avoid throwing the burned out sparklers on the ground where someone could step on them.
When viewing fireworks displays in large crowds of people, be vigilant of all members of your party, especially if you are watching the display with young children. "Kids disappear easily. A good thing to have is a bracelet with their name, your name, and your phone number," Jensen says. "Have a good knowledge of what the child is wearing...and talk with your children. Tell them what to do if they get lost–find a police officer, fire fighter, ambulance driver. They all have distinct uniforms."
Jensen reminds all residents that it is illegal to launch fireworks on public property including roads and sidewalks. On private property, "It is illegal to launch fireworks on any property not owned by you unless you have explicit permission from the property owner," he says. It is also illegal for the person displaying fireworks to be under the influence of alcohol.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's editorial coordinator. She was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys gardening, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo: Piotr Matlak