Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging Floridians to think about fire safety as they make their Fourth of July plans.
“The Fourth of July is a great time for families and friends to relax together and reflect on the freedoms we all enjoy,” Gallagher said. “But don’t let the celebration turn to tragedy. If you're buying fireworks to celebrate, remember that if it launches or explodes, it is illegal in Florida."
Gallagher is encouraging Floridians to instead attend a professional fireworks display or enjoy any of the hundreds of legal sparklers listed on the State Fire Marshal’s web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sfm.
Illegal fireworks include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers. Floridians should not sign “waivers” in order to purchase fireworks. Signing a waiver will not clear you of responsibility should you be caught using them, and using fireworks illegally is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Even if you are using legal sparklers there is still a risk of injury. When lit, some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees, which is at least 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane lighter.
Illegal fireworks aren’t the only fire hazard facing Floridians looking to celebrate this Fourth of July weekend. Gallagher said grills and campfires also can pose real risks.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that each year about 30 people die and 100 people are injured as a result of charcoal and gas grill fires, explosions and misuse. Many of these fires and explosions occur when consumers first use a grill that has been left idle for a period of time or just after refilling and reattaching the grill's gas container.
Meanwhile, campers can suffer serious and fatal burn injuries if they use candles, portable stoves, cigarettes, lanterns, matches around camping tents and sleeping bags. Sparks can also blow from a nearby campfire and ignite a tent or sleeping bag.
Gallagher advises Floridians to follow these precautions to celebrate safely:
- Use sparklers and other legal novelties on a flat, hard surface. Do not light them on grass.
- Use sparklers in an open area. Keep children and pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited sparklers.
- Light only one item at a time and never attempt to re-light a “dud.”
- Don’t use any unwrapped items or items that may have been tampered with.
- Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on-hand for emergencies. It’s a good idea to drop used sparklers in a bucket of water.
- Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage.
- Check for gas leaks, following the manufacturer's instructions, if you smell gas or when you reconnect the grill to the LP gas container. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
- Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, leaks or sharp bends.
- Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If you can't move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.
- Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any building.
- Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
- Check cooking, heating and lighting equipment to make sure it is in good repair. Read instructions carefully and obey any warning labels.
- Use flame-retardant tents and sleeping bags. Keep tents and sleeping bags away from all flame sources.
- Never bring a stove, lantern or candles inside the tent. Tell youngsters afraid of the dark to keep a flashlight handy and not to use candles.
- Place stoves and campfires away from the tent. Extinguish all fires before going to sleep.
- Make sure that the stove, heater or lantern is stable and will not topple while it is being filled or during use.
- Use caution when storing or transporting fuel. Some stoves require that the reservoir be emptied to avoid leakage while carrying. Use safety cans to transport fuel.
Gallagher also reminds Floridians to check the batteries in their smoke detectors.