Same drill as last year: Mind your fireworks, avoid burned fingers

Published: Wednesday, July 2 2014 4:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, July 2 2014 5:09 p.m. MDT

Ronald Rice rings up fireworks at a TNT Fireworks stand in East Millcreek Township, Monday, June 30, 2014.

Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Jamison Gunnell is hoping her husband gets off work in time to fire up the barbecue grill and set off fireworks for their traditional Fourth of July celebration.

The Gunnells and nine other families in their West Valley neighborhood are planning a fireworks show in the common parking lot of their community.

"I like them at my house because I don’t like the big crowds. I have three little kids," Gunnell said, "and it’s fun taking them out, but it's such a pain in the bum sometimes. We’ve been doing it ever since I was little — the 24th (of July), Fourth (of July), anytime we can get a chance, even New Year's.”

The Gunnells live in a community that is under the standards of a homeowners association. Besides keeping up with the homeowners association regulations, Gunnell shared some of her own fireworks safety tips.

"Pretty much just make sure you know what you're dealing with, and keep the kids as far away as possible — and watch your fingers and your hair," the 32-year-old mother said with a laugh.

Each year, roughly 10,000 people in the United States sustain fireworks-related injuries, said Sue Day, trauma program manager at Intermountain Medical Center.

"There are a lot of things all involved in a holiday, with people being off work and partying it up or doing things that just may not be safe," Day said.

"We can't prevent people from lighting their own fireworks," she said. "That’s just part of the joy of being able to have those. People just need to follow the safety tips."

Lighting fireworks in Utah is allowed between July 1 and July 7, and from July 21 to July 27 from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and extended until midnight on the Fourth of July to accommodate the various shows. Municipalities also can impose restrictions on when and where fireworks are allowed.

In Salt Lake City, the area west of I-15, east of the Capitol, the University of Utah and city parks are all off-limits for lighting fireworks, said fire department spokesman Jasen Asay.

"We know that fireworks, if treated right, can be a safe way to celebrate the holidays," Asay said, "but if not treated correctly, they can cause damage, they can cause fires and they can cause injuries."

At least five fires occurred in Salt Lake City in July 2013 because people lit fireworks in restricted areas, he said.

Asay said fire officials' biggest concerns are fireworks being thrown away while they are still hot, and people drinking while lighting fireworks.

"A lot of times we respond to Dumpster fires after people have discharged fireworks, and then they take those fireworks and throw them into a Dumpster, thinking it is safe," he said. "But the fireworks are still very hot, so given the right environment, they can start fires."

Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said officers will issue warnings and tickets to offenders.

"If someone is lighting off fireworks in a restricted area … a police car might go up there and write them a ticket for the fireworks," Wilking said. "More than likely we are going to tell them to knock it off."

Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to respect the restricted areas, he said.

"They are restricted for everybody’s safety for a reason," Wilking said, "and remember you are going to be held liable for any major incident that could be caused. It could ruin your life for just setting off a bottle rocket."

The Salt Lake City Fire Department encourages people to read over a general list of firework safety tips before setting anything off.

Gunnell, who said she's a "scaredy-cat" when it comes to fireworks, summed up the most important rule of all: "Keep a bucket of water handy for sure."

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com, Twitter: MirandaCollette

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