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Stay safe while celebrating patriotic tradition

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The hiss. The flare. The boom. The bang, pop, pow and ker-plewy.

Exploding declarations of independence, and rocketing revelries of patriotism, are part of the Independence Day tradition in this country, and are, at least, as old as the lyrics of the "Star Spangled Banner," with its references to bombs and rockets.

Your fire department officials understand that, and they don't mean to be unpatriotic: They're just asking you to be safe.

"Our No. 1 message is: Safety, safety, safety," said Landry Merkison, a battalion chief with the Clayton County Fire Department. "And always have an adult close by."

Every year, paramedics see fireworks-related injuries, and some fires. Most of the injuries, according to Merkison, are burns to hands and faces.

"In the hands of unsupervised kids, they [fireworks] can be a dangerous things," he said.

Capt. Sabrina Puckett, with the Henry County Fire Department, said paramedics have also seen fireworks cause permanent scarring, loss of vision and even damaged limbs. Injuries, Puckett said, "are too often the harsh realities of amateur fireworks displays."

Henry County officials are promoting parental supervision, but said even adults should leave the celebratory explosions up to professionals.

"Go to where there's already an organized fireworks show," Puckett said. "Where there are professional pyrotechnitians. There are always injuries. You have burns and hand injuries and eye injuries ... attend the professional displays that are being offered, because those people are trained."

There are no professional fireworks shows scheduled in Clayton County over the holiday weekend, though there are four events in Henry County: Including displays on July 3 and 4 at Nash Farms and Atlanta Motor Speedway, and on July 4 at Lake Spivey and the Community Bible Church, in Stockbridge.

According to the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's web site, there are some safety guidelines to follow:

· Have water nearby.

· Never throw a firework.

· Only light one at a time.

· Never re-ignite malfunctioning fireworks.

· Never make your own fireworks.

· Never give fireworks to small children.

· Only use them outdoors.

· Always read and follow instructions.

· Only buy fireworks legally in Georgia.

The state allows normal-sized sparklers, small fountains and showers, and fireworks which operate on the ground. No aerial fireworks -- like Roman candles and skyrockets -- are legal in Georgia, and none of the larger fireworks -- like firecrackers and cherry bombs -- are allowed.

Some retailers emphasize that everything they sell is legal in the state. Under a red-and-white tent in a parking lot near the intersection of Ga. Highway 138 and Tara Boulevard, the Jonesboro Church of God is selling a selection of all-legal fireworks, and using the proceeds to support a sick child, according to pastor Danny Henderson.

The display also shows how each firework rates for loudness and variety of colors.

Henderson said his favorite firework is a fat, multi-colored fountain.

"It's rated four," he said. "So it's got the most colors. It's got all the colors. It goes up" -- the pastor shot his hands up into the air, like he would dive into the deep end of a pool -- "and then it comes down."

Henderson arched his hands down, showing how the fountain of sparks would look by wiggling his fingers.

He mimed the explosion in the middle of his tent, full of Fourth of July fireworks, and it was like you could almost hear someone singing about a free land and brave people.