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July 4 is for patriotism, family, not disregard for others

Memorial Day this year dawned hot and humid, but my husband and I had set this day aside to clear out the gutters both on our home and my sister’s next door. Spring had sent thousands of what we called “Oak tree whirligigs” out of our oak trees onto the lawns, gardens and our roofs.
They had mysteriously taken root all along the gutters pampered by the wet spring and tiny trees were sprouting up all over both houses.
As my husband made his way around the gutters, he found a number of spent fireworks that had landed on our roofs last 4th of July – most of them were bottle rockets.
Several years ago I wrote on this subject, but feel compelled to address it again this year, as the patriotic holiday is just a few days away.
The Fourth of July is one of just a few holidays that continue to be celebrated each year. It is a time of patriotism, parades, family cookouts and fireworks as Americans gather to remember the birth of our nation and our freedoms.
I love this holiday because of the warm memories it evokes, the ancestors I’ve discovered who fought through every war this country has seen and the country that I love. What I don’t enjoy is the fireworks fired off during the days before and after the Fourth in my neighborhood.
This year I called city hall in the city where I reside. There are a few ordinances about Fourth of July fireworks, yet they aren’t publicized in that town’s paper every year. Nevertheless, here they are for Lexington: Fireworks can only be discharged on July 4th between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. – not before or after. Aerial fireworks – specifically bottle rockets – are not permitted. Yet, what do we find for sale in the little fireworks stands set up around the city? Bottle rockets and other “illegal-to-fire-off” fireworks.
Why are fireworks that are illegal to discharge in residential areas for sale to residents? Why aren’t the hours of legal discharge observed or enforced?
I have seen some residents do a very nice job of cleaning up after themselves so the street in front of their house doesn’t look like a charred war zone, yet others just leave the mess until by virtue of weather, it disintegrates.
Kansas City news stations have already reported that several people received serious injuries this past weekend when they attempted to disassemble fireworks to re-assemble them into more powerful fireworks. I agree this is not an everyday occurrence, but aren’t we taught at a young age not to play with fire? This is just an example of people thumbing their nose at fate – and losing.
I have neighbors who wake up on the Fourth with a drink in their hand and are setting off fireworks early. By the time noon has rolled around, they are too drunk to supervise their young children who then take over the discharging of fireworks in the street.
Every year I pray those children will survive without mishap.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Fireworks, CPSC Document 012 is clear on the subject: “Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, (the law) prohibits the sale of the most dangerous types of fireworks to consumers. These banned fireworks include large reloadable mortar shells, cherry bombs, aerial bombs, M-80 salutes and larger firecrackers containing more than two grains of powder.”
According to Missouri statutes 320.106 to 320.161: “Only sales of Type 1.4 fireworks are allowed, excluding torpedoes, torpedo canes or bottle rockets.”
Interestingly, the person I spoke with at city hall told me that bottle rockets were considered “aerial.”
It may be a matter of semantics to call bottle rockets aerial or all those fireworks stands would be violating the above-mentioned law prohibiting the sale of dangerous aerial fireworks – and getting away with it.
No matter how your July 4th holiday is celebrated, if you intend to use fireworks, then safety is the issue. The following are tips from the CPSC:
• Don’t allow young children to play with fireworks under any circumstances. Sparklers, a commonly considered safe firework for youth, burn at a very high temperature and can easily ignite clothing or burn right through skin.
• Older children should only discharge fireworks under close supervision of adults.
• Fireworks should be lit outside in a clear area away from houses, dry leaves, grass or flammable material.
• Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring over fireworks that don’t discharge.
• Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water before disposing of them.
• Be sure spectators are out of range before discharging fireworks.
• Never light fireworks in a container, especially one that is glass or metal.
• Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
• Store fireworks in a dry, cool place.
• Learn about and observe local ordinances.
• Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework when igniting.
• Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks.
My own tip includes that those discharging fireworks be respectful of their neighbor’s yards and homes. Every July 5th we have to comb our yards to pick up all the bottle rockets that have landed on our property because our neighbors do not clean up after themselves.
This year, like every other year, we’ll stay home to be sure our house doesn’t catch on fire when those around us spend hours firing off the illegal bottle rockets.
Our two cats will spend most of the day cowering under a bed or piece of furniture because of the loud “booms” and “whistles” of the fireworks all along our street.
Most importantly, everyone should enjoy the holiday, observe prudent behavior and be concerned with the safety of family, children and others as well as ourselves so this most patriotic of days isn’t marred by a tragedy that could have been prevented.
For more information, go to: www.cpsc.gov, www.fireworksafety.com or http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/c320.htm.
To find out the fireworks ordinances in your city or town, contact your local fire department or city hall.

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