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Fireworks on Independence Day an American tradition
Fireworks that project into the air or explode are prohibited in Pinellas
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Photo by TERRE PORTER
An assortment of fireworks is available at local stores. The Pinellas County prohibits the sale, purchase or use of fireworks that project into the air or explode. Officials urge the public to go to one of the many free shows put on by professionals.
Although the Fourth of July comes on a Tuesday this year, Americans will still be celebrating the 241st anniversary of this nation’s independence. And more likely than not, fireworks will be part of the party.

Fireworks are an American tradition, as evidenced by the first-ever celebration on July 4, 1777, the year after the 13 colonies declared their independence. Many credit John Adams for coming up with the notion as part of his plans to mark the momentous occasion.

In a letter to his wife Abigail, written on July 3, 1776, he wrote that the nation should celebrate with “pomp and parade, with shews [shows], games, sports, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

While Americans may not have embraced all of Adam’s celebratory ideas universally “forever more,” it seems the use of “illuminations,” or fireworks, has stood the test of time. Each year, people flock to large fireworks shows and neighborhoods light up as people host their own personal events.

However, here in Pinellas, people should know that the sale, purchase or use of fireworks that project into the air or explode are prohibited. Officials strongly urge everyone to leave all other fireworks to the professionals.

Plenty of choices are available to attend a free public fireworks show, including:

• Coachman Park, 301 Drew St. in downtown Clearwater. Free family celebration with music, food, drinks, local vendors and activities, including a concert by The Coachman Park Pops Orchestra with The Wilsons. Gates open at 4 p.m. Music begins at 7:30 p.m. Fireworks will begin between 9-9:30 p.m.

• Largo Central Park, 101 Central Park Drive. Free event with food, entertainment and fireworks. Activity wristbands are available for $10. The events begin at 6 p.m. Fireworks show will begin about 9:15 p.m. No alcohol, coolers, pets, personal fireworks or sparklers permitted. Onsite parking available for $10 cash. Park and walk available from Largo Middle School and Everest University.

• Downtown Safety Harbor. Patriotic parade begins the celebration on Main Street from 10 a.m.-noon. Starting at 5 p.m., there will be children's activities, live entertainment and food vendors starting at 5 p.m. Fireworks show begins at 9 p.m. Public viewing available in the marina or the waterfront park.

• Gulfport Waterfront District. Family-friendly block party starting at 8 a.m. with a fishing derby for the kids with a family sand sculpture contest at 10:30 a.m. The parade on Beach Boulevard begins at 6 p.m., and the fireworks start at 9 p.m. on Gulfport Beach near the Gulfport Casino.

• St. Petersburg Spa Beach Park, 615 Second Ave. NE. Fireworks begin at 9 p.m.

• Tarpon Springs. Fireworks will be launched from Sunset Beach beginning just after sunset. The best viewing area is Fred Howard Park, 1700 Sunset Drive. The park, beach and causeway will be open for parking, which is free after 6 p.m. Parking is limited. No alcoholic beverages permitted in the park. The north end of Sunset Beach and the boat launch will be closed on July 4 and the south side and the causeway will close at 2 p.m.

Fireworks safety

The reason Pinellas County has banned fireworks is safety. Fireworks are dangerous. Even sparklers, which can heat up to 1,200 degrees, are dangerous and account for about 25 percent of injuries each year. While popular with children, Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization, suggests that the use of glow sticks as a safer alternative.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 8,500 people seek treatment at the emergency room each year for fireworks-related injuries. The majority, 70-75 percent, of injuries occur from about June 23-July 23. Seven out of every 100 are hospitalized due to their injury. About 40 percent are children less than 14-years-old. Males are injured three times more often than females. The injury rate is highest among boys ages 10-14.

The most common injuries from fireworks are to the hands, 34 percent; face, 12 percent; and eyes, 17 percent. Bystanders are less likely to be injured than those who actually handle the fireworks. The cost of treatment of fireworks injuries adds up to millions of dollars each year.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety has noticed a recent trend among youth using fireworks in videos posted on the internet to get attention. Parents are asked to encourage safety and to explain that the improper use of fireworks can result in serious injuries or even death.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety offers a number of tips for safe use of fireworks, including obeying all local laws regarding the use of fireworks. Even though most fireworks are illegal in Pinellas, people still host their private shows. The most important thing is to handle fireworks safely to prevent injury and property damage.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that fireworks caused about 15,600 fires in the United States in 2013, including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires and 14,000 outside and other fires.

Tips for safe handling of fireworks include:

• Read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions.

• A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities.

• Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. 

• Wear safety glasses.

• Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.

• Do not hold fireworks in your hand.

• Do not point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area and away from buildings and vehicles.

• Do not relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.

• Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper that may be intended for use in professional displays. • After purchasing fireworks, always store them in a cool, dry place.

• Have a hose, bucket of water, or other water source nearby.

• Do not carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them using metal or glass containers.

• Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

• Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trashcan away from any building or combustible materials.

• Keep pets away from fireworks noise.

• Be considerate of individuals, especially veterans, who may be sensitive to loud noises.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.
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