Warm weather and family gatherings can make the Fourth of July a fun time with great memories. But before celebrating, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is asking residents and visitors to make sure they understand the importance of fireworks and campfire safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 91 percent of the fires associated with fireworks over a five-year period occurred in grass, brush or dumpsters.
"With folks filling state parks, campgrounds and backyards to celebrate the Fourth of July, it's vital that precautions are taken prior to lighting campfires and setting off fireworks," said DNR fire prevention specialist Ada Takacs.
"You can still have fun while celebrating with friends and family, even if you're being safe," Takacs said in a statement. "The best way to avoid risk is to attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals."
When planning to use fireworks, the DNR suggests keeping these safety tips in mind:
- Sparklers can reach 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit - hot enough to melt gold. Sparklers remain hot even after the spark is gone. Always place in a bucket of water. Sparklers thrown on the ground can cause grass fires.
- Point fireworks away from homes, and keep them away from brush, leaves and flammable substances. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to an average of 19,700 fires caused by fireworks each year.
- Chinese lanterns can stay airborne for 20 minutes and reach up to one mile high before coming down in unplanned locations. The open flame has the potential to start fires.
- Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash.
Takacs said that in addition to fireworks safety, people should keep the following tips in mind when enjoying their campfires:
- Use fire rings in non-flammable areas when possible.
- Never leave a campfire unattended.
- Keep a water source and shovel nearby.
- Place roasting sticks in a bucket of water when not in use.
- Completely extinguish fires before turning in for the night. Douse with water, stir and douse again to make sure no embers are left.
"Fireworks and campfires are a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but you'll enjoy the holidays much more knowing that your family and your property are safe," Takacs said.
Additionally, the American Pyrotechnics Association urges fireworks consumers to:
- Light one at a time. Never light two or more fireworks or sparklers at the same time.
- Keep it outside. Only use fireworks and sparklers outdoors on flat, hard surfaces in clear areas and away from houses, buildings and dry grass.
- Have adult supervision. Never allow young children to light or handle fireworks or sparklers. Be aware of the minimum permitted age in your state. Adults should always be present when lighting or handling fireworks or sparklers.
- Stay alert. Never mix alcohol or other substances with fireworks or sparklers.
- Stay clear. Never hold a lit firework in your hand. Keep as far from them as possible when lighting.
- Let sleeping fireworks lie. Never try to relight fireworks or sparklers that do not ignite. Wait 15 to 20 minutes before approaching them, then soak them with water and throw them away.
- Protect your pets. Animals are often frightened by the sounds of fireworks. Protect your "best friends" by keeping them indoors, secure and away from the loud, sudden noises.
Individuals should also check local and state laws and only purchase fireworks and sparklers that are legally permitted. Also, people are encouraged to check the label and instructions on both fireworks and sparklers to ensure they come from a reliable, legal and licensed source.
While fireworks remain a risk, it should be noted that Americans use more than six times the amount of fireworks now than they did less than 40 years ago.
In that same time period, fireworks-related injuries in the United States have plummeted, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.