This time last year Louisiana was under a statewide burn ban enacted because of a drought.
Although there is no burn ban in effect right now, Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said Friday that dry conditions across the state raises the risk of fire when people do not use fireworks safely.
“It’s been dry the last two weeks but nothing like last year around this time,” Browning said.
Browning and others Friday urged residents to exercise caution when grilling, swimming and visiting the beach, enjoying other outdoor activities and using fireworks.
Wednesday is Independence Day, one of two annual holidays when people traditionally hit the retail fireworks stands and buy their favorite items that go snap, crackle and pop.
Browning encouraged residents to attend professional, public fireworks displays but he said he knows residents are still going to buy fireworks for personal use in the coming days.
Residents won’t be, however, buying fireworks in East Baton Rouge Parish, where it is illegal to sell or use the pyrotechnics.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office will have its Special Community Anti Crime Team out as well as additional traffic patrols posted across the parish on July 4, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
The Sheriff’s Office Maritime Response Team will be working with the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol the Mississippi River before and during the annual downtown Baton Rouge July 4th fireworks show. The show, “Fireworks on the Mississippi,” is sponsored by The Advocate and WBRZ Channel 2.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office bicycle patrol unit, detectives and uniform patrol deputies will be supporting the Baton Rouge Police Department to patrol the levees Wednesday, Hicks said.
Because fireworks use in the city is also illegal, fireworks will be confiscated if found and violators could also face criminal charges, police spokesman Lt. Don Kelly said.
Kelly also said officers will strictly enforce the law against anyone found firing a gun into the air.
Browning said trained professionals and experienced fireworks enthusiasts should handle retail fireworks in a safe and lawful manner. “When things go wrong, they go wrong very fast, and often with disastrous consequences,” he said in a news release.
Amateur fireworks use can sometimes lead to burns, scars, disfigurement and death, Browning said in the news release. Sparklers, most consider to be harmless, can reach temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees, he said.
The state Fire Marshal’s Office this year also outlawed the retail sale of sky lanterns, small, paper balloons that light up in the sky, Browning said. The lanterns sometimes start fires when they land on dry grass and wooded areas, he said.
Other fireworks safety tips include reading and following fireworks directions, having a hose or bucket filled with water nearby, lighting one at a time and not pointing fireworks at people, pets, cars or buildings.
For more safety tips, visit http://www.lasfm.org or http:// www.batonrouge.redcross.org.