With the 4th of July quickly approaching, Owensboro Fire Department Battalion Chief and Fire Marshall Steve Leonard recently discussed laws regarding the purchase, sale and discharge of fireworks. Leonard said most people didn’t know where things stood in regard to fireworks and the law.
Leonard pointed out that the public can only discharge fireworks on a handful of days each year, all from 10 a.m. to midnight: Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, July 3 and 4, and Memorial Day.
Leonard said though most people don’t know it, fireworks cannot legally be ignited within 200 yards of a structure, vehicle or another person at any location within city limits.
“It’s impossible for the average family to have that kind of distance, but we see it every year,” he said. “It’s difficult to find spots that meet that requirement.”
Leonard said it would be an impossible task to keep each and every person in the city from shooting fireworks in an illegal manner.
Leonard said preventing fireworks retail sellers from opening up shop in Owensboro wouldn’t help much either.
“I think if those retail sellers would leave our community, people would buy them somewhere else,” he said. “That’s what happened before [Kentucky changed its fireworks laws].”
While individuals illegally discharging fireworks can be cited and charged fees ranging from $50 to $1,000, Leonard said OFD had learned that the best method of preventing potentially dangerous situations was through “awareness and prevention.”
“There’s no way these agencies can enforce that,” he said. “Education goes a long way.”
According to Leonard, education had already gone a long way, adding that manufacturers were now making fireworks safer. The number of firework-related emergency room visits had decreased substantially in recent years, he said.
Still, first responders continue to respond to such injuries each year. Leonard said hand wounds accounted for 38% of firework-related injuries, while eye injuries made up 14%.
Though no one under the age of 18 is legally allowed to purchase, sell or discharge fireworks, Leonard said the majority of fireworks injuries happen to people younger than 18.
“One thing we hear a lot is that the fire department doesn’t like fireworks,” Leonard said. “We’re not opposed to the use of fireworks. We’re opposed to the misuse of fireworks.”