Fireworks safety is everyone's business

While an apparent mix-up in dates prevented Howard County commissioners from passing a ban on fireworks just before Christmas, forcing officials to informally request that firework vendors not sell rockets that include sticks and fins, it's time for citizens of this community to do the right thing by not buying or setting off those type fireworks.Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan has spoken with several local fireworks vendors, requesting they abstain from selling rockets that include sticks or fins this holiday season.“The vendors I've talked to have all been very cooperative, and are willing to help us on this matter,” Sullivan said. “The problem with those particular rockets are they can go long distances, well out of someone's sight. However, make no mistake about it, a roman candle can start a fire just as fast, or even faster.”And while no ban means no fines for using dangerous fireworks in the county this holiday season, fireworks are never legal within city limits.Since a real danger exists, regardless of whether or not fireworks have been banned, local law enforcement officials figure to be approaching the situation with little or no tolerance.“People who want to drive out into the county and shoot their fireworks from the roadway are going to be in some very hot water if they get caught,” Sullivan said. “They will be in violation of the current burn ban, and if a fire causes any kind of damage, they are going to be looking at a charge of reckless damage. Add that to littering, and you're looking at approximately $1,500 in fines.”Sullivan said the number of grass fires and wildfires he and his firefighters are responding to has been steady since the colder months began.“We've been responding to anywhere from two to three fires a day,” Sullivan said. “The surrounding counties have seen a pretty serious upswing in their fires in the past few weeks, but we seem to be holding steady at this point. However, I'm not foolish enough to think it's going to stay that way.”Indeed. And, as we noted earlier, it's time for the public to not be foolish enough to indiscriminately discharge fireworks. Be responsible and safe as you ring in 2011.