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Common Sense Urged During Fourth Of July Celebrations

Multiple people watching a large firework explode in a night time setting.
Craig Ruttle
Watching fireworks in a public setting, set off by professionals can be safer than firing them off at home, according to officials.

Officials are asking residents in the Tampa Bay Region to be responsible and to leave fireworks to professionals for the Fourth of July.

Most festivities for Independence Day 2020 were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but their return has officials this year urging people to be safe and to avoid setting off fireworks at home.

Plenty of cities are offering public celebrations, including Tampa, where Boom by the bay will be held Sunday. At a news conference about the event, Tampa Fire Marshal John Reed said that leaving it to the pros is the safest way to celebrate.

“We really want to send a message and encourage everybody to please come out and enjoy the professional shows,” said Reed. “We have a lot of injuries that result every year and the professionals do such a great job.”

He said Tampa will be launching fireworks from six different shoot locations, meaning there will be spots to see it all in parks across the city.

“We want to remind everybody that in any of the city parks, there's no fireworks that are allowed, you can't bring sparklers into the city parks,” he said. “So please leave those at home and come out and enjoy the large display.”

While Florida law permits the personal use of fireworks on the Fourth of July, New Years Eve and New Years Day, some jurisdictions including Pinellas County prohibit their use. Earlier this week, Pinellas County Government issued a reminder of the danger of using recreational fireworks. If you’re using legal fireworks, such as sparklers and fountains, the county encourages that you:

• Read and understand all product warnings

• Never place any body part directly over a device when lighting the fuse

• Use sparklers only as intended outdoors

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap

• After using the legal fireworks, douse them with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says safety also should be kept in mind when heading out to a public celebration. He said mapping out a course of action beforehand is important.

For example, parking spots are often picked when the sun is still up, and surroundings can look unfamiliar when night falls and the event is over.

“The biggest thing is to plan ahead. Know where you're going to park so you know where you're going,” Dugan said.

Dugan also specifically warned parents to take precautions with children, especially since crowds may be “bigger than ever” now that the pandemic lockdowns are over.

“If you're bringing a child, please take a picture of them with your smartphone, take a picture of them before you leave the house for if you become disconnected or end up losing them,” he said. “If you have that picture, you can show it to the authorities, and we will know exactly what they're wearing and exactly what they look like.”

Daniel Finton is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for the summer of 2021.
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