Who: Council of Governments Fire Chief’s Committee
What: Fireworks Safety News Conference and Demonstration
When: Friday, June 25, 2010, at 10:30 a.m.
Where: DC F&EMS Training Academy – 4600 Sheppard Parkway, SW, Washington, DC
Special Note: Area bomb squads will be on hand as there will be a live demonstration of the dangers of fire works. Several explosive fire work devices will be shot off. Lots of good visuals!
On Friday, June 25, 2010, at 10:30 a.m. fire officials from the Washington Metropolitan Region will conduct a fireworks safety news conference and safety demonstration at the DC F&EMS Training Academy – 4600 Sheppard Parkway, SW, Washington, DC
Alarmed by an increase in the use of illegal fireworks, fire officials from across the region have launched an effort to inform the public about fireworks safety and have put in place an aggressive enforcement plan for the Fourth of July.
You Light It…We’ll Write It!, is a campaign targeting individuals who use illegal fireworks. Regionally, fire marshals and law enforcement officials will be joining forces in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia enforcing these laws. “The use of these illegal fireworks anytime, are dangerous and can lead to injuries, deaths and fires” said Prince William County Assistant Fire Chief Hadden Culp, Fire Marshal. “But we see a dramatic increase in their use around the July 4th holiday, and this could be deadly.”
Fire officials will step up patrols in their jurisdictions to confiscate illegal fireworks but asked residents to help them by reporting the use of banned fireworks to the fire department.
"It's safe to say that there are probably just a few residential areas in the DC Metropolitan area where you weren't able to either hear or see illegal fireworks being used during past Fourth of July celebrations,” said Prince William Fire Chief Kevin McGee, Washington Area Council of Governments (COG) Fire Chiefs Committee Chair. "These fireworks have been at backyard parties, neighborhood displays and individuals' homes and pose a great threat to life and property.”
In recent years, Prince William fire officials alone have confiscated more than $10,000 worth of illegal fireworks, a fraction of the amount authorities said were discharged on the July 4th holiday in the DC Region.
"We found that many of the people that we approached in years past expressed surprise when we confiscated their illegal fireworks," McGee said. "They felt that they purchased those fireworks legally and that their possession was legal."
Some jurisdictions allow a variety of fireworks regulated by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. Legal devices in many of the surrounding jurisdictions include cones, sparklers, sparkling devices and novelties. Illegal fireworks include Roman candles, skyrockets, aerial shells with mortars, and firecrackers (Check with your locality). Fireworks are prohibited in some local areas, including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Alexandria, Virginia.
“Bottle rockets -- the whistling, sparkling fireworks that shoot into the air, often turning a backyard display into an ersatz professional show -- are the illegal devices most commonly used each Independence Day”, said Dennis L. Rubin, Chief of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department for the District of Columbia. "The problem is that you have no control over where it goes."
Studies show the use of fireworks in the United States has risen from 67 million pounds to 236 million pounds in a ten year period. With that, the risk of fires set and injuries caused by fireworks has increased as well.
“On the Fourth of July weekend, fire marshals and police officers will patrol the region looking for illegal fireworks, which will be confiscated,” Assistant Chief Culp said. “The violator will then be charged with the offence and must appear in court. Locally, use of illegal fireworks in Virginia is a Class 1 misdemeanor, meaning a person could receive jail time of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $2,500.00.”
Fire officials are encouraging people to attend professionally supervised displays, either on the National Mall in Washington or at a number of shows at cities, towns, parks and other venues in the region.