FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2011
STATE WILDFIRE RESPONSE AGENCY URGES COMMON SENSE ON FIREWORKS
(Columbia, SC)-The staff of the South Carolina Forestry Commission know the Fourth of July holiday is coming up without even having to look at the calendar. The phone calls about fireworks and their legality have started rolling in to SCFC offices, but the agency’s message is a simple one: please use common sense.
The public often approach SCFC personnel urging the agency to ban fireworks. SCFC public information director Scott Hawkins says many safety conscious residents are worried about the chances of fireworks sparking a dangerous wildfire, especially this year.
“Fires in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Florida have been in the headlines, along with several in our state and folks are worried, but the SCFC doesn’t have the legal authority to ban fireworks,” Hawkins explained.
Instead, the Forestry Commission is urging people to take advantage of the public fireworks displays planned by local municipalities. These shows are conducted professionally with safety and entertainment sharing top billing.
An on-going drought, a holiday weekend, and a proliferation of fireworks outlets this time of year is a recipe for wildfire. With diminished firefighting capacity due to budget cuts (by about 46% since 2008) and aging equipment, SCFC is hoping folks won’t take chances.
“That expression, ‘you’re playing with fire,’ is taking on a more literal meaning right now,” Hawkins said. “Ground fuels around the state are dry and ready to ignite.”
On the minds of SCFC personnel responding to fire calls this weekend will undoubtedly be the recent tragedy in Florida. Two Florida Division of Forestry firefighters died this month when their units were burned over while suppressing a relatively small wildfire.
Eleven SCFC employees and several engines are deployed to Georgia to assist with that state’s suppression efforts. An SCFC mechanic is in North Carolina dispatched to help colleagues there keep the firefighting equipment up and running at a large coastal fire.
SCFC veteran Brad Bramlett hopes to enjoy the Independence Day holiday with his family uninterrupted by fire calls. “We know that fireworks are an important part of the holiday for many South Carolinians,” Bramlett said. “So if you have to use them, please make sure you’re using them as safely as possible.”
Bramlett offers tips for making sure your fireworks don’t create a show of their own by spreading to grass, the woods, or nearby buildings:
- Know what the local laws say about fireworks in your area
- Always make sure there’s adult supervision around
- Do not shoot fireworks toward wooded areas
- If a firework does land in a wooded area, go check it to BE SURE that it is completely extinguished
- Have water handy (garden hose connected to the house and/or buckets of water)
- Make sure to shoot fireworks from a hard surface
- Refrain from shooting fireworks on windy days
- Afterward, monitor the area where the fireworks were used to make sure nothing is burning
Even though, depending on local ordinances, fireworks may be legal, you can be held criminally and financially responsible if you cause a fire. A recent push by the Commission urging stricter penalties in the state’s courtrooms for people convicted of burn law violations resulted in an increase in the average fine from $99.48 to $278.13.
“We don’t see any of that money, but if it’s a deterrent against future wildfires, we’re saving a lot,” Hawkins said.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CALL SCOTT HAWKINS @ 803-360-2231 or (803) 896-8820
The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource
For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces more than $1,800.00 of economic impact.