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Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals

“No fireworks, we don’t want any.”

That is the sentiment of Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke toward private use of fireworks on the Fourth of July holiday.

“But the people have spoken so we have to obey their wishes,” Duke said, referring to a November 2004 ballot measure where 57 percent of Bremerton voters rejected a measure to ban fireworks in the city.

Fire Marshal Scott Rappleye said the community does not fully grasp the dangers involved with fireworks.

“People enjoy fireworks,” Rappleye said. “We see all the people that didn’t enjoy it. Kids get their fingers or their whole hands blown off. It’s crazy.”

The burden of fireworks calls is heavy on both the fire and police departments, he said.

“Somebody might be having a heart attack or stroke and all our manpower is out on a brush fire or something like that.”

Rappleye would prefer to see fireworks limited to professional public displays. Although professionals are licensed and receive training, accidents occur for them, too. Rappleye recalls a fatal incident involving a professional pyrotechnician in Port Orchard.

“If it can happen to the professionals, imagine what can happen to your children,” Rappleye said. “Haven’t we gotten any smarter ... to protect our kids from the dangers we inflicted on ourselves and our friends doing stupid stuff when we were young?”

Rappleye points to hand-held sparklers as an often overlooked danger. He said the sparks often fly in unpredictable directions and burn children’s eyes.

“What other time of year are you gonna give a kid something that’s 600 degrees (to hold) in their hand?”

The fire marshal realizes that despite warnings, the injuries and property damages will continue to occur.

“It’s predictable and preventable,” Rappleye said. “We usually have 20 or 30 calls a day on the 4th of July.”

In 2004, the last year for which statistics are available, Kitsap County officials dealt with 87 fires and six injuries during the week of Independence Day.

Rappleye echoed safety tips provided by the National Council on Fireworks Safety for those who do choose to use fireworks.

“I would say stay away from dry grass and wooded areas,” he aid. “Never try to make your own fireworks. Kids lose hands and fingers every year trying to make their own.”

State law allows fireworks to be sold and discharged through Wednesday, July 5. Stands were allowed to open Wednesday. Because of a change in state law in 2002, a former county ordinance can no longer be enforced and law enforcement has to go by the state law.

GRAY BOX:

Safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:

- Always read and follow label directions.

- Have an adult present.

- Buy from reliable sellers.

- Use outdoors only.

- Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).

- Never experiment or make your own fireworks.

- Light only one firework at a time.

- Never re-light a “dud” firework (wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).

- Never give fireworks to small children.

- If necessary, store fireworks in a cool, dry place.

- Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then disposing of them in your trashcan.

- Never throw or point fireworks at other people.

- Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

- Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.

- The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework.

- Stay away from illegal explosives.

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