Officials encourage attending public fireworks displays

Jordan Fields, left, and Makenzie Hewlin, 8, both of Cumberland, purchase fireworks Tuesday from Bruce Pavlik at Big Poppy's Fireworks in Ridgeley, W.Va. Officials urge those purchasing fireworks to be aware of the laws in the area where they reside. The fireworks tent is open daily through July 4 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

CUMBERLAND — Public safety and health officials are urging safety first when it comes to traditional Fourth of July fireworks displays, preferring attending of public events over use of consumer fireworks.

In fact, those same officials, including the International Association of Fire Fighters, prefer any use of fireworks to be left to the professionals.

"We would encourage residents to attend public fireworks displays, while maintaining social distancing,” James R. Pyles, director of the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services, said.

The same message was voiced by the Cumberland Police Department to enjoy the holiday "safely and responsibly."

"There have been a number of complaints made recently to Cumberland Police about illegal fireworks being discharged in the city limits,” Lt. James D. Burt said.

Those complaints prompted Cumberland Police to note that any law enforcement officer can issue a criminal citation and confiscate fireworks for violations, such as happened Tuesday to a Cumberland man during investigation of a Grand Avenue complaint.

In Cumberland, discharging fireworks without a required permit carries a fine of $250, as does the violation of possession of fireworks without a permit. A fine of $500 also may be issued for disorderly conduct that also carries a jail sentence of up to 60 days.

Fireworks that are illegal in Maryland include firecrackers, cherry bombs, black cats, M-80s, crackling ball, smoke bombs, Roman candles and bottle rockets.

Any firework that is fired from a mortar tube is illegal, as are Sky Rockets, Helicopter-type Rockets, Spinning Wheels, Moving Tanks or other vehicles.

Pyles also stressed that children should never to be allowed to play with or ignite fireworks; and never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

“Make sure the type of fireworks you are using are legal in the area you live before buying,” Pyles said.

UPMC Western Maryland is also emphasizing safe summer activities that would include safe and cautious handling of legal consumer fireworks.

“This summer, injury prevention should be a key focus during fun activities with family and friends,” Elizabeth Wooster, UPMC Western Maryland Trauma Program manager, said. 

UPMC Western Maryland is a designated state Level III Adult Trauma Center. Last year, the Cumberland hospital served the needs of 488 trauma patients from July 1, 2019, through May 31.

More than 10,000 people are treated for fireworks-related injuries every year and most of those occur around the Fourth of July holiday, according to Doug Stern, a spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters.

He also said more than a third of the injuries involve children under the age of 15.

In 2017, sparkler injuries reportedly sent nearly 1,200 children to hospital emergency rooms.

Temperatures on sparklers reach as high as 2,000 degrees, the same as that of a blow torch. Officials said such temperatures can easily burn skin and create permanent injuries.

“Though legal in many states, consumer fireworks are extremely dangerous if not handled properly,” Stern said.

In the event of any emergency, Pyles reminds residents to dial 911.

“Our dedicated team of emergency service professionals from our Joint Communications Center of the Emergency Services Division will be available to respond to emergencies if they occur in the county,” Pyles said.

Listed public fireworks displays throughout Maryland may be found at mdsp.maryland.gov/firemarshal/.

More information may also be found at www.iaff.org/fireworks-safety/.

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