LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – With Tampa Bay’s patriotic July 4 fireworks traditions canceled due to coronavirus, fire officials are preparing for a busier than normal holiday weekend.
“I do have a fear that we’re going to see more injuries and possibly deaths and damage to property because we’re going to have more citizens out using what will be considered consumer legal fireworks rather than going to the shows shot by the professionals,” said Lakeland Fire Marshal Cheryl Edwards.
At Lakeland’s fire station one, crews are ready for when the calls start coming in.
“We’re preparing by staffing all the crews and making them aware, based off all the numbers and statistics, how we’re gonna potentially see an increase in these types of patients,” said Rescue Captain Fred Stewart III.
Almost half of the fires on the Fourth of July last year were from improper use of fireworks, fire officials said.
Instead of fireworks, Stewart encourages people to choose other forms of patriotism, including glowsticks, balloons and arts and crafts.
“Normally what I do is try to do other things with my kids because they even know, as a former pyrotechnic specialist, that I’m concerned about them using fireworks,” said Rescue Captain Stewart.
This is the first Independence Day since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law making the holiday exempt from state fireworks restrictions. New Years Eve and New Years Day are also exempt.
“Use some common sense when you’re using fireworks. Don’t use fireworks that shoot items at people. I don’t know why I even have to say this but don’t aim fireworks that shoot at another human being,” Stewart said.
Other tips from the Lakeland Fire Department include keeping young children away from fireworks, having adult supervision, using a wide-open space, keeping a bucket of water or garden hose handy, and dousing equipment and debris with water before disposing of them.
“We’ve often found where people will throw that all in a garbage can and it will smolder and then we’ll have a house fire later,” Edwards said.
Be careful with hand sanitizer and make sure it is dry on your hands. Because of the alcohol content, it can be flammable.
“I would still take some precautions. Make sure just use soap and water rather than hand sanitizer, if you’re the one out dealing with fireworks. Just avoid that situation,” Edwards said.
For those still looking to buy fireworks in the Bay area, Galaxy fireworks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. will be open until midnight on the 4th. The will also give you a guide on firework safety.
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