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Wheeling Fire Department Warns of Fireworks Dangers

Although they are now legal to purchase in West Virginia, aerial fireworks are not permitted to be used within the city limits of Wheeling. Local fire officials are urging people to be cautious with fireworks as the Independence Day holiday approaches. File Photo by Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — Firefighters recommend leaving Fourth of July fireworks celebrations to the professionals, as they say most fireworks are dangerous and against the law in the city.

As Independence Day approaches, the Wheeling Fire Department reminds those who plan on celebrating not to use prohibited fireworks within city limits. An ordinance prohibits fireworks that propels into the air and is combustible, explosive, flammable or audible, including bottle and sky rockets; Roman candles; and sky lanterns.

“The reason for that is because of our population density,” said Larry Helms, chief of the Wheeling Fire Department. “Anything that flies and explodes could cause potential hazards to your neighbors.”

Helms said the city fire department typically responds to a couple of calls relating to fireworks every July Fourth holiday. He said for those who decide to use legal fireworks — such as sparklers — an adult must be available to supervise young children. He recommends those using sparklers have a bucket of water handy to properly extinguish them and to make sure the kids don’t burn themselves by touching the hot wire. He said sparklers burn at temperatures around 2,000 degrees — hot enough to melt some metals.

Although people can still purchase those fireworks prohibited in the city — thanks to a change in West Virginia state law in 2016 — they still cannot be used within the city limits, Helms said. Wheeling does permit the use of certain fireworks within city limits, including sparklers; fountains; party poppers; snaps; smoke devices; and various non-propellant noisemakers.

According to The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 250 people on average visit the emergency room every day with fireworks injuries in the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July holiday.

Some fireworks safety tips provided by the safety commission include:

∫ Always have adult supervision in place and never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

∫ Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks devise when lighting the fuse and back up at a safe distance immediately after lighting them.

∫ Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully ignited.

∫ Avoid buying fireworks that are package in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays.

∫ After fireworks complete burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose.

∫ Make sure fireworks are legal before buying or using them.

In addition to fireworks safety, Helms said the public needs to take safety precautions when it comes to backyard grilling and fire pits. He said it is always important to keep grills and fire pits a safe distance from the house or any structure.

“Make sure your grill has separation from your home and it’s not going to cause any heat damage to your home or a fire,” he said. “If you’re doing any outside burning with a fire pit, it needs to have safe clearance, as well.”

Helms said the general rule is to keep a contained fire pit at least 15 feet away from structures and to burn only natural wood and not treated wood or any construction materials.

Safety tips provided by the U.S. Fire Administration and FEMA for working over open flames include:

∫ Wear short sleeves or roll them up while cooking on a grill.

∫ Open a gas grill before lighting, and clean after each use.

∫ Keep a 3-foot safe zone around a grill to keep children and pets safe.

∫ Keep an eye on a grill, fire pit or patio torches while they are in use, and place any coals in a metal can once they have cooled.

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