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Officials urge safety as East Texas firework sales begin

By Sarah Thomas
June 28, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Officials are reminding East Texans of the laws and dangers of handling fireworks as stands open this week for Independence Day.

"We still have some citizens that are unaware that it is unlawful to possess or use fireworks within the city limits," said Longview Fire Marshal Johnny Zackary about the city's ban.

Fireworks are not allowed within the city limits of Longview, Kilgore or Gladewater but are allowed in the county.

Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian said, although it is unlawful to possess them, citations for possession of fireworks are usually reserved for when officers are sure the person is about to use them and not for people who get pulled over with them in their vehicle.

"Most of the officers know there are people buying them at the beginning (of when they go on sale) because they want the best ones," Brian said.

Hallsville's city ordinances allow fireworks to be discharged July 4 inside the city limits until midnight, said Mayor Jerri Medrano.

"They're legal unless there's a burn ban inside the county, and there's not one as of today," she said Friday.

"Some of these fireworks are pretty large explosives," Zackary said. "Some contain enough powder to be very damaging if improperly used."

In 2010, a Longview man suffered serious injuries to his hands when he picked up a device he thought had malfunctioned.

"We were shooting off fireworks and one didn't go off the way it was supposed to," his girlfriend told the News-Journal at the time. "He picked it up to try to figure out what went wrong, and it exploded in his hands."

Of the 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, 21 percent are eye injuries, and more than half the victims are young children or teenagers.

Even fireworks such as Sparklers intended for younger children burn at temperatures between 1,800 and 3,000 degrees.

The dangers aren't just personal injury, Zackary said. Improperly used fireworks can lead to costly property damage.

Wildfires, hayfields and houses all can be burned if fireworks are used the wrong way at the wrong place, he said.

Zackary added the inherent dangers in handling fireworks are part of the reason the city of Longview urges people to enjoy the annual Fourth of July Fireworks and Freedom Celebration at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

"Our goal is for the citizens to come out and have a fun, family time in celebration of the Fourth and enjoy a safe, approved, professional display," he said.

Fireworks aren't the only danger for Fourth of July revelers, Zackary said.

In 2011, Longview police responded to 23 calls for fireworks disturbances and nine reports for gunshot disturbances.

In 2012, officers responded to 38 calls for fireworks disturbances and two calls regarding gunshots fired.

"Last year while we were working the (fireworks display), a slug from a shotgun came down into a fire department employee's personal vehicle," Zackary said. "If it would have hit a person it could have possibly killed him."

Brian added the person who discharges the firearm is ultimately responsible for any damage or injuries it causes.

"The person who shoots it is still responsible for whatever happens when it comes down."



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