Officials: Take extra caution when shooting fireworks

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; With only four inches of rain this month, it&8217;s dry out there.

And that has local firefighters worried about the fireworks that are bound to go off this weekend.

&8220;It&8217;s so dry,&8221; Vidalia Fire Chief Jack Langston said. &8220;People have got to be extremely careful. They need to use precaution around dry grassy areas and think about those that they shoot in the air. You don&8217;t know where they are coming down.&8221;

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In Natchez, a house on Mascagni Avenue caught fire Friday morning when a bottle rocket landed on the front porch, Fire Chief Paul Johnson said. The Natchez Fire Department also responded to three grass fires caused by fireworks this week, he said.

The Vidalia Fire Department responded to a grass fire Friday morning, and Concordia Fire District No. 2 has had more than their share this week, several caused by fireworks.

&8220;We&8217;ve had nine to 10 grass fires this week,&8221; firefighter Howard Blount said. &8220;An average of three grass fires a day. Anywhere is a risk right now, anywhere there&8217;s grass.&8221;

Natchez and Vidalia have ordinances against shooting fireworks inside the city limits.

But Vidalia Police Chief Billy Hammers said his officers would only respond if a complaint were called in.

&8220;If we get a complaint, we make them stop,&8221; he said.

Johnson urged residents to avoid the danger altogether.

&8220;We are really telling people just don&8217;t shoot them,&8221; he said.

There are multiple risks involved, Johnson said, other than not knowing where the fireworks will land and dry grass.

&8220;People light them with matches, then throw the matches down and you get fires from that,&8221; he said. &8220;And firecrackers, they can explode in your hand. We&8217;ve seen a lot of that.&8221;

If residents insist on shooting fireworks, Johnson recommended going to an open area away from structures, and never letting children under 12 near the explosives without close adult supervision.

In Ferriday, the fireworks ordinance is suspended for the holidays. From Dec. 10 until Jan. 2, fireworks are permitted inside the city, Police Chief Robert Davis said. Residents can shoot fireworks until 1 a.m. on New Year&8217;s Eve.

Davis advised watching out for dry areas too, and said his office would have extra patrols out watching for unsafe situations and potential drunk drivers.