Dry weather, fireworks increase fire risk
by Jessica Loeding
Jun 21, 2011 | 2869 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that summer has arrived, bringing with it pop-up thunderstorms, fireworks and outdoor grilling, fire officials are encouraging residents to use caution.

Running though Sept. 30, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's open burning ban enforce restrictions in 54 counties throughout Georgia, including Bartow. The ban prohibits citizens and businesses from burning yard and land-clearing debris. There also is a year-round state ban on burning household garbage.

City of Cartersville Fire Marshal Mark Hathaway said the city does not allow outside burning at any time of the year, the county follows statewide regulations.

"Typically we don't really see an increase in fires in the summer. The humidity is so high this time of year that nothing can really burn," Hathaway said.

Bartow County Fire Department personnel said those who burn illegally may face up to a $10,000 fine.

Ongoing dry weather has added to the concerns over wildfires caused by lightning strikes, the use of fireworks on the Fourth of July and outdoor grilling and camping.

"Conditions are very, very dry all over Georgia," said Alan Dozier, Chief of Protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. "That's a big concern as people bring out fireworks to celebrate the Fourth.

"Permits for outdoor burning are not being issued, and we certainly discourage use of fireworks unless organized and supervised by local officials."

Hathaway encourages residents to refrain from celebrating Independence Day with pyrotechnics at home. "My biggest recommendation is go to Dellinger Park and watch the professionals do it."

The legalizing of sparklers and other spark-emitting fireworks may give people the feeling that legal fireworks are safe. Though legal in the state of Georgia, sparklers still need to be handled with caution. A handheld sparkler burns at more than 1,200 degrees, enough to cause a third-degree burn.

To treat minor burns, cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cool (not cold) running water for 10 or 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cool water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Do not put ice on the burn. Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Don't use fluffy cotton, or other material that may get lint in the wound. Wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn reduces pain and protects blistered skin.

In addition to the possibility of burns, sparklers may cause grass or house fires. In fact more fires are reported on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year. More than half of these fires are caused by fireworks.

Sparklers are a big concern for the city's fire marshal who recommended having a bucket of water on hand.

"Make sure you have water nearby. When you are finished with the handheld sparkler, throw it into the water and let it sit overnight," Hathaway said.

Dozier also urged Georgians to be vigilant about other outdoor activities involving fire, such as backyard grills, campfires, cigarettes, and even over-heated lawn equipment, all of which are capable of causing fires that can flare up and spread quickly. Farm activities are especially susceptible to fire occurrence during these unusual dry conditions, Dozier said.

"Summer and the Fourth of July holiday are synonymous with fun," said Dozier. "This year, safety precautions have to be a big part of that picture. With everybody's help, we can prevent the tragedy of wildfire and enjoy this special time of year."

Citizens can access more information on the open burning ban by calling the EPD Mountain District Office, which covers Bartow County, at 770-387-4900. Small businesses can obtain help and information by calling EPD's Small Business Environmental Assistance Program toll free at 877-427-6255.

For more information about current fire conditions, preventing wildfires and services of the Georgia Forestry Commission, visit GaTrees.org.

INFO BOX:

* Ninety-two percent of the fireworks injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms involved fireworks that Federal regulations permit consumers to use.

* Do not allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some still may be ignited and can explode at any time.

* An estimated 5,700 grill fires occur on residential properties each year in the United States. Almost half (49 percent) of grill fires on residential properties occur from 5 to 8 p.m.

* Thirty-two percent of grill fires on residential properties start on patios, terraces, screened-in porches, or courtyards.