Fireworks on for the Fourth
By Ron VandenBoom
More than $6,000 in sky rockets will decorate the summer sky on the Fourth of July thanks to the Havre Jaycees.
About 500 pounds of fireworks representing more than 290 three-eighth-inch rockets are planned as part of this year's display, as are firetrucks from the Havre Fire Department.
Extremely dry conditions, which prompted a countywide burning ban, have necessitated the presence of the trucks during this year's event.
"We are encouraging everyone to be very, very, very careful," County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said. "It's very dangerous conditions out there."
The Havre Police Department reminds area residents that all fireworks are illegal within the city limits. This includes sparklers, smoke bombs and firecrackers. Officers will be on the lookout for violators, and tickets can be issued to offenders and, in some cases, their parents.
City Judge Joyce Perszyk said the use of fireworks within the city limits is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail. Damages and restitution could also result if property damage or physical injury occurs.
State fire marshal Terry Phillips used the opportunity of the upcoming holiday to warn that fireworks injuries are on the increase and can be avoided.
"Fireworks, when they're used properly, safely and legally, can be a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July," Phillips said. "We just want Montanans to have a safe and sane Independence Day."
He said last week that emergency room injuries caused by fireworks in the United States jumped from 8,500 in 1999 to 11,000 in 2000, an increase of 29 percent. About 40 percent of the increase was related the millennium celebration but the rest occurred on or around the Fourth of July.
Nationally in 1999, more than a third of all firework-related injuries happened to young people aged 5 to 14.
Also in 1998, an estimated 21,700 fires involving fireworks were reported across the nation, resulting in $15.6 million in direct property damage.
In Montana, 85 fires were reported, resulting in an estimated $608,246 in direct property damage.
Phillips said Montana law specifically prohibits the sale or possession of "sky rockets," described as large rockets attached to a stick, as well as Roman candles and bottle rockets. Also illegal are fireworks called "M-80s." These are federally regulated and are illegal everywhere in Montana, including Indian reservations.
Questions about fireworks can be directed to local fire departments and law enforcement or Phillips' office in Helena at 406-444-2050.