Celebrate Independence Day without crossing the Chattahoochee River.
That's the message Columbus Fire Department officials hoped to spread during a press conference Thursday, in which Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner Ralph Hudgens gave information on fireworks safety.
Hudgens and the department is hoping to discourage locals from buying fireworks in Alabama that would be illegal in Georgia, such as fireworks that explode or rocket into the sky.
"Anything that explodes or goes up in the air — rockets, roman candles — anything like that is illegal in Georgia and a fire hazard," Hudgens said.
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By cautioning citizens against using illegal fireworks, Hudgens hopes to cut down on injuries and prevent fires.
"About 8,000 people a year are sent to the emergency rooms due to firework related injuries," Hudgens said. "This is the 237th birthday of the United States, and you don't want to make it the day you have to go to the emergency room for a loved one or yourself."
Fire Marshal Ricky Shores stressed that many injuries related to fireworks could be prevented by common sense practices. The department demonstrated fireworks safety during the press conference by setting off a TNT Fire Destroyer unit and a TNT Hotshots unit.
"Don't point the fireworks at anyone or anything," Shores said. "Be aware of your surroundings, and keep your children under supervision."
Officials also said citizens should set only one firework off at a time, and keep a hose and water bucket handy. Each firework should be submerged in the bucket after use, as it could still cause a fire if thrown away dry.
Citizens could also avoid the legal and safety hazards and attend professional shows, Hudgens said. He encouraged citizens to skip home demonstrations and go to the Phenix City show, which will start at 10:15 p.m. on the Fourth of July. Locals can watch from the Phenix City Amphitheater or from across the river.
"They are putting on a fireworks show in Phenix City on July 4 that is better than anything you could do," Hudgens said.
For those wishing to buy their own, Georgia allows citizens to buy sparklers or fountain fireworks. Wire or wood sparklers of 100 grams or less per item are allowed, as are other sparkling items which are non-explosive or non-aerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube. Georgians are also allowed to buy fireworks with multiple tubes that total 200 grams.
Party favors such as snake and paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers and snappers are allowed at up to 25 grams.
Possession and use of illegal fireworks in Georgia can also result in a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
Hudgens warned that parents who ignored state law not only put them in legal trouble, but could set bad safety and citizen examples for their children.
"Let me stress to the parents who go across the line and bring back these fireworks," Hudgens said. "Not only are you breaking the law, you're teaching your children to break the law."