From THE VOICE
Fireworks mishaps are not only dangerous to people but can also damage people’s property when homes and other structures become landing sites for sky rockets gone wild.
“It happens all the time,” said Martin Hartway, fire chief with the Department of Public Safety in Lenox Township. “We had a fire just the other day, on the Fourth of July, started by fireworks.”
According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs every year there are approximately 20,000 structure fires, ranging from backyard sheds to homes, caused by fireworks mishaps.- Advertisement –
When fire-related incidents involve consumers, low impact, or illegal fireworks resulting in property damage, injury or death of another person, individuals are subject to being convicted of a misdemeanor or felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years and fines of up to $10,000 or both, depending upon the severity of the crime.
Shed fires don’t always make the news but the number of incidents reported has prompted state Rep. Jeff Yaroch of Richmond to introduce a pair of bipartisan proposals that would bring much-needed reforms to address ongoing safety concerns within Michigan’s current fireworks laws.
Yaroch said his office has received complaints from constituents about people lighting off fireworks too close to structures. House Bill 5004 would make it illegal for people to ignite fireworks within 200 feet of property they do not own, unless given permission from the owner or lessee of the property.
“There’s a lot of frustration regarding fireworks,” Yaroch said. “In Macomb County and across southeast Michigan, the population density is much greater than areas in Northern Michigan. This has resulted in many complaints about fireworks being ignited too close to homes and other structures. For the safety of the community and people’s property, this is a reasonable solution that will go a long way for every neighborhood across the state.”
Also, being addressed by Yaroch is the issue of sky lanterns. Yaroch’s second bill, House Bill 5005, would allow local units of government to enact an ordinance regulating the sale, use, ignition and release of sky lanterns.
Once lit, sky lanterns become unmanned, self-contained luminary devices that use an open flame and paper balloon to fly aimlessly in the sky.
“Although sky lanterns look nice in the night sky, the reality is they drift away and can land somewhere when they are still burning,” Yaroch said. “There’s no predicting where they land, be it a farm field, power line, lake or home. And depending on where one lands, it could pose a safety hazard. We want to give local governments the option to regulate these devices how they see fit.”
Both pieces of legislation are in the House Regulatory Reform Committee for further consideration.
According to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) in Michigan, consumer fireworks must meet Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards. Only people 18 years of age and older can purchase fireworks from licensed facilities. Low impact fireworks (ground-based items such as sparklers, toy snakes, snaps, and poppers) are also legal for sale and use.
State law requires that consumer-grade fireworks only be ignited from personal property. It is illegal to ignite fireworks on public property (including streets and sidewalks), school property, church property, or another person’s property without their express permission. State law makes it illegal to discharge fireworks when intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
LARA offers these safety tips to protect lives and property:
• Follow the manufacturer’s directions
• Have an adult supervise fireworks activities, including sparklers
• Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance
• Ensure people and pets are out of range before lighting fireworks
• Light fireworks outdoors on a driveway or other paved surface at least 25 feet away from houses and flammable materials such as dry grass or mulch
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishaps
• Douse spent fireworks in a bucket of water before discarding them in a trash can.
• Buy fireworks packaged in brown paper or use unlabeled fireworks – they are for professional use only
• Experiment with or make your own fireworks
• Allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks
• Place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse
• Try to re-light “duds” or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully. (Rather, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.)
• Point or throw fireworks at other people
• Carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
Gina Joseph is a multimedia journalist at The Macomb Daily and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.