By MATT CRANE
While the colorful glows and whirring sounds of bottle rockets and aerial shells have always accompanied the beginnings of a new year, Starkville and Oktibbeha County fire officials said residents should exercise caution and common sense when celebrating with fireworks this New Year’s Eve.
Starkville Fire Department Chief Rodger Mann said in his 31 years working for the city there has always been a ban on fireworks and residents have been diligent about respecting those boundaries.
“No fireworks can be displayed or sold within our city limits,” he said. “Residents over time have accepted and complied with that because they realize the need and nature of that law.”
Mann said while the city participates in a community-wide Fourth of July fireworks display, no such event is planned for Monday and those looking to handle fireworks outside city limits should be cautious of their individual situations.
“The number one thing is adult supervision and having a means to control the situation if you are shooting them in a wooded area, watching for any embers that could spark a flame,” he said. “It’s all about being safe and using common sense because we always have someone injured because they were using the fireworks in a way the manufacturer did not intend.”
According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, the risk of fireworks-related injuries is highest among children ages 5-14 and in 2010, approximate $36 million in direct property damage was reported.
Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said while he recognized fireworks as a long held tradition in the south for New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, there are significant hazards that must be addressed.
“We certainly urge people to respect the laws in any municipalities because Starkville does not allow fireworks in the city,” he said. “While there are no ordinances or standards or laws in the county, people should be very careful to not have any unsupervised children around, and those participating should watch where the fireworks are being shot because of the danger of grass fires.”
Rosenhan said while fireworks are intended for a fun, entertaining time, residents should be cautious of both structural and personal injuries and always practice common sense.
“In the county, we can’t prohibit them, but we can tell them to be careful while doing it,” he said. “These things are a lot of fun, but they can be dangerous and we must use them with respect.”