Wednesday will be marked with explosions of color and noise as residents celebrate Independence Day. Experts warn that citizens should use caution when it comes to using fireworks and sparklers.
Hot and humid with temperatures expected to be in the 90s in the Rock Hill area this week, there is a risk for fires from fireworks, said Eric Morrison, director of Piedmont Medical Center's Emergency Medical Services.
Morrison said residents should also be mindful of how they celebrate with fireworks.
"Alcohol and fireworks don't mix," he said. "We have to remember that fireworks are explosive. The thing that makes them fun is also the thing that makes them dangerous."
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Each year in the U.S., more than 3,000 children under the age of 15 are taken to the emergency room with firework-related injuries, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on preventing injuries in children. Sparklers are the cause of about one-third of those injuries in children under five.
Morrison said residents should also heed state laws when it comes to using fireworks. The laws are different for South and North Carolina. They also vary among municipalities.
In Fort Mill, it's illegal to shoot fireworks unless they're part of a professional display. In York, setting off fireworks isn't allowed unless they're part of a "display sponsored, supervised and conducted" by a group having obtained a city permit. Tega Cay has a variety of rules on fireworks prohibiting people from shooting them unless part of a "public display or exhibit." Even then fireworks aren't allowed past 10 p.m.
There is no law that prohibits shooting fireworks in Rock Hill's city limits, said Katie Quinn, spokesperson for the city. Residents do have to follow the city's noise ordinance, which outlaws disturbing and "unreasonably loud" noises that injure or endanger the health, peace or safety of others.
"We ask people to be mindful of their neighbors and not shoot off fireworks extremely late or for long periods of time," Quinn said.
Municipalities may not actively enforce fireworks rules without first being contacted about a problem, but they do sometimes put out public notices ahead of time. The Fort Mill Police Department went to social media ahead of July 4 to remind residents of the rules.
In S.C., a person must be at least 16 years old to purchase fireworks.
It is illegal in South Carolina to use fireworks that contain a "pyrotechnic composition in excess of two grains" that are made to produce a loud effect, according to state law. These include fireworks such as "cherry bombs," T-N-T salutes and small rockets less than a 1/2 inch in diameter and 3 inches long.
S.C. does allow the use of bottle rockets, cakes, aerial fireworks and mortars.
North Carolina does not allow the use of any fireworks that explode in the air. It is also illegal in N.C. to use fireworks that spin on the ground, roman candles or bottle rockets. Sparklers, fountains and other items that do not explode or are not intended to spin or leave the ground are allowed.
The American Pyrotechnics Association, a national trade group for fireworks manufacturers, distributors and retailers, reports that American consumers spent about $885 million on fireworks for last year's Independence Day celebrations.
Residents should only purchase fireworks from permitted retailers.
“There are hundreds of permitted professional fireworks displays available to South Carolinians to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday,” said State Fire Marshal Jonathan Jones. “Residents can consult their local fire officials for firework displays in their area.”
Safety tips for July 4:
- Monitor children who are around fireworks, including those using sparklers. Make sure sparklers are held far enough away from the body and that the user does not grab the hot part of the sparkler. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends glow sticks instead of sparklers for young children.
- Have a bucket of water, an extinguisher or a water hose nearby in case of fire. Put used fireworks in water.
- If a firework does not light up, leave it alone for at least 20 minutes and then soak in water. Do not try to reignite.
- Follow the directions on each firework.
- Only use fireworks outdoors and away from dry grass, homes and trees.
- Make sure people and pets are kept at a safe distance from fireworks. Only light one at a time.
- Never throw or point a firework at another person.
- Never shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
Residents should also be wary of their surroundings at large events, Morrison said. He suggests that families have plans in place should they be separated and cell phone service is unavailable.
"If something is suspicious, say something," he said. "We have to take responsibility for our own safety."
Safety tips from Piedmont EMS, Safe Kids Worldwide and the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.