Official urges fireworks safety

State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine is urging parents to protect their children — and themselves — from the dangers of fireworks during New Year's Eve holiday celebrations.

The sale, and individual use, of any type of firework –– except certain kinds of sparklers –– is illegal in Georgia, according to a written statement issued by Oxendine's office.

"The illegal ones will explode or elevate," said Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's office. "So, if the device explodes or elevates off of the ground, then, it is illegal.

"Probably the ones that you've seen here in Georgia, at the grocery stores and department stores —those are the sparklers, and they may pop up, but the device itself does not explode, nor does it elevate," Allen said.

"If you go across the border to Alabama, Florida, or Tennessee, you're taking a chance on bringing back illegal fireworks ... product that is legal in those states, but not in Georgia," Allen said Monday.

According to the written statement, the following fireworks are not prohibited by state law: "Wire or wood sparklers, of 100 grams or less of mixture per item; other sparkling items, which are non-explosive and non-aerial, and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube, or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes; snake and glow worms; trick noise makers, which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers, and drop pops, each consisting of .25 grains or less of explosive mixture."

The penalties for the use of illegal fireworks in Georgia are a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to one year in jail, according to state officials.

Professional fireworks displays are permitted, provided they are licensed through a local judge of probate court, the statement said.

"It's traditional to celebrate the coming of the New Year with fireworks," Oxendine said in the written statement. "I urge our citizens to enjoy them safely by watching a professional display as they mark the arrival of 2010," he said.

The commissioner said, although sparklers are legal in Georgia, they should be used properly, with adult supervision.

"According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2007, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,800 people for fireworks-related injuries," he said. "Approximately one-third of these injuries occurred among children, ages 14 years and younger."