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Bright lights, big advice: Check laws, safety for fireworks use

Ten-year-old Baylee of Bartlett is about as happy with her green sparkler as she is pleased with the purple snow-cone she just finished. Photo by Amanda Swain.

Ten-year-old Baylee of Bartlett is about as happy with her green sparkler as she is pleased with the purple snow-cone she just finished. Photo by Amanda Swain.

Best friends Addison, 9, and Baylee, 10, light up the dark in their Bartlett Woodlands West neighborhood, happy to create sizzling sparks and long plumes of smoke with their sparklers. Photo by Amanda Swain.

Best friends Addison, 9, and Baylee, 10, light up the dark in their Bartlett Woodlands West neighborhood, happy to create sizzling sparks and long plumes of smoke with their sparklers. Photo by Amanda Swain.

Bartlett parents who don’t mind their children waving around a bright sparkler in the July 4 twilight can take heart in the fact that the city doesn’t have a specific ordinance prohibiting minor fireworks. As long as users avoid making enough noise to offend the neighbors and continue to use commonsense fire safety precautions, they should be free from interruption.

It’s important to know the local laws, because a Shelby County ordinance forbids the sale or use of fireworks, while the only municipality that prohibits the use of them is Collierville, according to Bartlett Fire Marshall Howard McNatt.

At least, that’s the state of affairs when it comes to Class C common fireworks (now known by the more modern terms “consumer fireworks” or “1.4G fireworks,” referencing the hazard code). Consumer fireworks include sparklers, ground spinners, small Roman candles, firecrackers, cones and other familiar products. The more powerful commercial display fireworks displays can only be conducted by professionals who have received a permit through the local and state fire marshals’ offices.

The caution against using fireworks unsafely is an important caveat. Fireworks don’t always work as planned. If a fuse is too short, fireworks can go off too close to a user. A rocket may misfire. A Roman candle may have a delay, tempting people to look closely at the opening just as another burst is coming. And if a person isn’t careful, even sparklers (which reach 1,200 degrees F. and hotter) can burn skin and clothing.

Dr. Derek Mullinix, who practices family and emergency medicine at Saint Francis Hospital in Bartlett, said the most common fireworks injuries treated locally are burns to the hands or face, eardrums ruptured from the noise, and some eye injuries. He cautions people to select safe places for their fireworks, to avoid drinking alcohol when using pyrotechnics and to supervise children using age-appropriate fireworks.

“They definitely have some consequences if used irresponsibly,” he said.

He said that the bottle rocket in particular is a common hazard because it may go off too quickly or people may place it in an unstable bottle or lightweight can that tips over, letting the bottle rocket zoom across the ground and get too close to people and property.

McNatt said fires are always a possible outcome, although fireworks-related blazes aren’t common in the Bartlett area.

Mid-South residents aren’t alone in finding fireworks beautiful and tempting despite the range of hazards. The variety and volume of fireworks sold throughout the U.S. can stagger the imagination: In 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available from the American Pyrotechnics Association, U.S. residents spent $825 million on Class C fireworks and $345 million on the professional display fireworks.

The safest way to indulge in fireworks is still to go to a public display where the professionals put on the show and citizens can lean back and enjoy the view. See this issue’s listing of local July 4 weekend celebrations to select a nearby fireworks show.

To be the most fireworks-savvy person on the scene, also see the Apa’s definition of the different types of commercial fireworks and click the terms to see photos of each at .

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