Keeping fireworks fun: Sumter officials offer safety message, tips for home-based July 4 festivities


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As stunning as fireworks can be on the Fourth of July, the blasts can also be dangerous to oneself and others on this patriotic holiday.

Usually, spectators watch professionals put on a fireworks display, but the pandemic affected the annual celebration in Sumter.

With the Sumter County fireworks at Dillon Park canceled and the Shaw Air Force Base fireworks postponed, Inspector Tammy Tolbert with the Sumter Fire Department knows community members will be lighting displays themselves this year.

“Ideally, we’d love for folks to go to public displays; however, COVID-19 has changed the way we’re going to celebrate the Fourth this year,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert said when lighting your own fireworks, it’s important to keep a water source or fire extinguisher nearby. She also said it’s important to stay 50 feet away from a property structure or people.

When it comes to lighting fireworks, Tolbert recommends that people light one firework at a time and to not bundle them up or light multiple at once.

She also noted that it’s important to never relight a dud and to submerge it in water before discarding.

In 2019, the U.S. had 12 fatalities due to fireworks and10,000 injuries, Tolbert said. Of those injuries, 73% were between June 21 and July 21.

Within those 10,000 injuries, 900 of them were from sparklers, and 36% of those injuries were children under the age of 15, Tolbert said.

People tend to think sparklers are harmless, but they can be dangerous.

According to Tolbert, sparklers can reach up to 1,200 degrees, and it’s mostly children who play with them.

“We really, really want to encourage adult supervision, preferably the adults that are going to be setting them off to begin with,” Tolbert said.

Selena Smith, fire prevention officer for the Sumter Fire Department, said reading the directions on the fireworks box is extremely important in putting on one’s own display.

Smith also thinks it’s important to check with your neighbors before lighting up the sky, as local veterans should be kept in mind during this holiday.

“A lot of veterans will tell you that fireworks are one of the things that remind them if they’ve been in Vietnam or any kind of combat,” Smith said.

If you know a veteran lives nearby, Smith said it’s common courtesy to make sure the veteran is alright with it.

“It’s just a neighborly thing to let your neighbor know that you’re going to put fireworks up so that they can plan appropriately,” Tolbert said.

She thinks it’s best to finish lighting fireworks by 10 p.m. as a courtesy to others and their animals, as well.

Fire Marshal Robbie Rickard said his dog ran away from home after a fireworks show.

“I looked for my basset hound all one New Year’s Day after fireworks that New Year’s Eve and found her 3 miles away,” Rickard said. “We don’t realize what they actually go through. It’s a vibration thing to them.”

Rickard said he never realized how much fireworks affected pets until he lost his dog, and he thinks pet safety is a priority all pet owners should prepare for.

The Humane Society of the United States provided four tips in keeping your pets safe during the noisy and nerve-wracking fireworks season.

  1. Keep your pet safely away from fireworks indoors, preferably with a radio or television turned on to soften the loud noises. If you are going to a Fourth of July event and cannot leave your pet at home, keep it close on a leash.
  2. Ask your local veterinarian for help if your dog is afraid of fireworks. There are medications and techniques that could help alleviate your pet’s fear and anxiety.
  3. Keep your pet safe from the summer heat. High temperatures can put your pet at risk of heat stroke. Also, never leave your pet in a parked car, as it can heat up to a fatal temperature in less than 30 minutes.
  4. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and ID tag. Pets can become so frightened that they will do anything to escape the noise, including breaking through windows or door screens. If your pet is lost, contact Sumter Animal Control at (803) 436-2066.