By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
As Havreites prepare to celebrate the nation's independence, local fire officials have some suggestion for fireworks users to help keep the weekend safe and fun.
The first thing people should do is select a safe and legal area to use their fireworks, said Havre Assistant Fire Chief Tim Ranes.
Igniting them within the city limits is illegal, he said.
This week, firefighters have responded to a number of fire calls resulting from fireworks use. Police can issue citations to people who violate fireworks ordinances, Ranes said.
"It is a busy time for us," he said. "Responding to firework complaints takes us away from more serious calls."
If people choose to use them outside the city, "you need to clear all the vegetation" in the surrounding areas, he said. "Make sure you have something to put them out, an extinguisher, water, a shovel, rake, etc."
The fire risk this year is worse than in previous years, Ranes added.
"We've seen quite a bit of moisture this year and have a lot of vegetation to burn," he said.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, last year more than 8,800 people in the United States were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks. The majority of the injuries were burns that involved the hands, eyes, and head. About half of the victims were under 15 years of age.
People can help prevent tragedy by using a little common sense, Ranes said.
"We encourage people to use good judgment and respect property," he said. "People need to read and follow the label instructions. Stay away from illegal and experimental fireworks, and don't relight duds."
"We just want the people of Havre to have a safe and happy Fourth of July, and enjoy their weekend," he said.