Fireworks season has arrived and with it, the time of year at which most of the nation’s more than 8,000 fireworks-related injuries occur, officials said.
Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens visited Dalton on Tuesday during a tour that included stops in Macon and Atlanta to call attention to fireworks safety and laws.
Fireworks that go up in the air have been illegal in Georgia since 2005, but sparklers and other kinds of fireworks that sit on the ground are OK. Airborne fireworks are still legal in Alabama and Tennessee.
“We urge you, please do not cross state lines and bring illegal fireworks into the state of Georgia,” Hudgens said during a press conference at Dalton Fire Department Station No. 2 on Abutment Road.
Hudgens lit a fountain sparkler in a parking lot there to demonstrate proper safety techniques. Wearing safety glasses and a long-sleeved shirt, he stepped back several yards after the fuse was lit and immersed the spent fireworks shaft in a prepared bucket of water after it was finished.
State Fire Marshal Dwayne Garriss said most of the fireworks-related injuries occur during the four weeks around the Fourth of July, and there are thousands of accidental fires from fireworks each year. Even legal fireworks should be used with caution, he said, especially since the area’s rainfall for the year is four inches below normal.
Only people insured and licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and state fire safety offices can legally shoot off airborne fireworks, Garriss said. He said shooting without a license is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
Hudgens, who was a state legislator for 14 years, said Georgia’s laws are there for a reason — safety.
“You need to defer to the wisdom of the Legislature that has decided we do not want to make these fireworks legal in the state of Georgia,” he said.
A public fireworks display by the city of Dalton will be held at Heritage Point Park on the Fourth of July at 9:30 p.m. There is no charge to attend.