Fire marshal: 'Extreme caution' urged with holiday celebrations
by Jessica Loeding
Jul 04, 2012 | 1726 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fireworks. Grills. Boats. There will be plenty of each going today in Bartow County as residents mark Independence Day.

Officials are urging residents to use "extreme caution" while celebrating. Bartow County Fire Marshal Bryan Cox said several factors, including dry, hot weather conditions, have increased the potential for fires.

"We are in a drought, and it's beginning to be a pretty significant drought," he said, adding that the department has classified local fire conditions as moderate to severe.

With no substantial rainfall in recent weeks and a heat wave that moved through over the weekend, the temperatures of ground fuel -- leaves, grass, fallen trees -- has closed the gap on the ignition point, Cox said, meaning less heat is required to kindle a fire.

"Since last Friday, we've had multiple woods fires. Our wild land team has been out working in conjunction with Georgia Forestry in our county on some of the smaller fires we've had, going back -- what we call mopping up -- taking care of an hot spots that we can find, cutting down dead falls that are burning, anything that the wind may be able to pick an ember up and carry it outside the blackened or burned area or outside the firebreak to reduce the hazards that we have," he said.

Fireworks on one of the biggest fire threats today, as many people attempt pyrotechnics at home. But, according to state law, anything more than a sparkler is illegal.

"If you cross the state line and purchase fireworks, anything other than a sparkler, it is illegal in the state of Georgia. Basically, ... if it accelerates up into the air, pops, bursts, does anything, shoots a projectile out of a base, Roman candles, all those are illegal in the state of Georgia," Cox explained. "If you are shooting an illegal firework and it causes damage or a fire to break out, it is the same as committing arson because you are doing an illegal act."

Along with fireworks, many people will be grilling, which also presents fire hazards. Cox said the state of Georgia requires those wishing to barbecue in a multi-family dwelling do so at least 10 feet from any building or combustible addition on the ground.

When setting off any type firework or firing up the grill, residents should have an extinguisher or garden hose on hand to quickly douse a fire.

While many are enjoying the Fourth of July on land, others will be taking to local bodies of water to celebrate.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources reported 54 boating incidents, resulting in 22 injuries and five boating incident-related fatalities through last week for 2012. Additionally, there have been 17 drownings on public waters.

DNR Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver said, "It is easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, but do not let the excitement of being out on the water deter you from your responsibility. Be alert and prepared for the safety of your passengers and for others on the water."

Following are some of the recommended safety tips from the Bartow County Fire Department and the DNR:

* When using fireworks, use only those legal under Georgia law and follow all manufacturer guidelines.

* Remain hydrated. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can speed up dehydration, so drink plenty of water when outdoors.

* Keep everyone safe in and around a pool. Be sure to have an approved rescue device on hand.

* Designate an operator. Do not drink and operate a boat.

* Take a boating safety course. Visit www.goboatgeorgia.com for course listings.

* Wear a life jacket. Children under 10 years of age are required by law to wear a life jacket while onboard a moving boat, but it's recommended for EVERYONE to wear a life jacket.

* Don't overload your boat with people or equipment. Check on the capacity plate for the maximum weight or the maximum number of people the boat can safely carry.

* Use navigation lights at ALL times when on the water at night. Check lights before it gets dark.

* Watch your speed. The 100-foot law applies to ALL size vessels and prohibits operation at speeds greater than idle speed within 100 feet of any vessel, unless overtaking or meeting another vessel in compliance with the rules of the road.

Personal Water Craft operators also should be aware of these additional safety rules:

* Do NOT jump the wake of another boat.

* Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you stay well clear of other vessels.

* Know Georgia's age requirements for PWC operation.

* Make sure everyone who operates your PWC is aware of boating laws and how to safely operate a PWC. As the owner, you can be held responsible.

For more information, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety.