After the state of Michigan lifted regulations against fireworks that for many years, local police and fire officials are preparing for more, and possibly more severe, accidents involving them. It has been common for people to use fireworks deemed illegal in the past, but because the more powerful, rocket type explosives will be more easily available this year, it is expected the use of them will climb further.
Michigan State Police Alpena Post Sgt. Rich Tucker said the law was in place to protect people who aren't experts from handling the fireworks. He said this year people who aren't knowledgeable with powerful fireworks will be using them and it cause problems.
"The regulations were in place for safety reasons. Now you will have people who don't have experience handling highly combustible fireworks," Tucker said. "I see people being injured because they aren't taking the time to know how to use them. They should read the instructions and follow them to the letter to avoid injury or worse yet loss of life."
News Photo by Andrew Westrope
Joel Ferguson stocks a display of leftover Memorial Day fireworks at Walmart in Alpena on Thursday. Shipments of new Fourth of July fireworks have yet to arrive, but local authorities are concerned about the possibility of injuries and fires following the state’s recent deregulation.
Tucker said in years past the police would see illegal fireworks being deployed almost exclusively around the Fourth of July holiday, but thinks now they will be easier to acquire it could be an issue throughout the summer months, or year round.
"People used to go out of state and buy them and bring them back for the Fourth of July. But with them being more easily available I see them being used more frequently," Tucker said. "They could be used for other holiday celebrations family gatherings and after the Fourth of July when they go on sale."
Alpena Fire Department Capt. John Morrow said some of the emergencies the department has responded to in the past involving fireworks could have been prevented if the user would have closely examine the fireworks before use. He said from time to time fireworks will discharge before the user can get out of harm's way and get injured.
"One problem is some of the projectiles have short wicks and they start shooting before the operator can get out of the way and they suffer eye and face injuries," Morrow said. "The next common type of injury is to the hands and arm, because people feel propelled to hold the Roman candle in their hand while it is going off."
The most obvious threat beyond personal body injury is that the sparks and heat emitted can cause fires, sometimes well away from where it was lit. Morrow said this is particularly the case with fireworks that leave the ground.
"They have the potential to land on peoples rooftops and start fires, as well as grass fires," Morrow said. "It could lead to sizable damage being caused to structures or people's yards."
Tucker offered some tips for those who are planning on having a fireworks display this year.
"We highly suggest it is done under adult supervision and make sure it is done well away from crowded areas and near by structures," Tucker said. "Read the instructions and follow them closely and have a water source available nearby."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.