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State fire marshal, Tampa Bay area officials urge fireworks safety for the 4th

Sparklers in front of an American flag
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State and Tampa Bay area officials are asking people to be careful when using fireworks this July 4th holiday. Their main suggestion: leave it to the professionals.

People should avoid unapproved fireworks, keep pets inside and away from fireworks and leave big fireworks shows to the professionals.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose job includes the role of state fire marshal, is cautioning Floridians to follow fire-safety guidelines ahead of the 4th of July holiday.

Under Florida law, people 18 and older can buy fireworks that are usually prohibited and use them on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day.

These include explosive fireworks like firecrackers, torpedoes and roman candles.

Patronis said people should avoid unapproved fireworks, keep pets inside and away from fireworks and leave big fireworks shows to the professionals.

“The organized shows are well worth a visit to. Almost every single community in the state of Florida budgets money for fireworks shows, because our citizens expect it," said Patronis. "So enjoying the public shows is definitely well worth the time.”

Specific rules about where fireworks can be used vary from county to county, and some areas of the state have active burn bans.

If you are going to shoot off your own fireworks, agencies like the Pinellas County Safety and Emergency Services want you to do it safely.

While sparklers and fountains are legal, they can reach temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees. Officials urge extreme caution and advise residents to closely follow these safety recommendations:

• Read and understand all product warnings.
• Never place any body part directly over a device when lighting the fuse.
• Use sparklers only as directed, and only outdoors.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
• After using these devices, douse them with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding.

Pinellas County Animal Services is also reminding pet owners to keep pets secure during firework displays.

Fireworks can scare pets, causing them to run away, become disoriented, or get hit by cars. Do not take pets to fireworks events, as they are at higher risk for anxiety, overheating and escaping.

• Make sure pets are microchipped, licenses are current, and tags are secured to pets’ collars.
• Keep pets indoors in a cool, comfortable place with some minor noise distraction such as a radio or television.
• If leaving town without your pets, leave them with someone who will be particularly cautious and responsible during Fourth of July celebrations.

Additional Safety Guidance: Fireworks displays can be very stressful for those coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These residents and visitors may want to take precautions over the holiday to minimize negative impacts of reactions:

• Consider using fireworks like sparklers that do not make very loud noises.
• If discharging legal fireworks at home, light fireworks during times in which other displays may take place, not too early in the day or too late at night.
• For those with PTSD: keep noise-canceling headphones on hand to drown out loud pops and explosions.
• For those with Post Traumatic Stress Response (PTSR): Stay close to exits at public places to make leaving easier if the noise become too much.

Veterans in need of emergency support can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1). For non-emergencies, contact Pinellas County Veterans Services at 727-464-8460.

Tom Urban - News Service of Florida
Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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