Celebrate Independence Day the safe way

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published June 30, 2015

 Emery Collesano and Paige Stamper, both of Farmington Hills, dance during the fireworks two years ago.

Emery Collesano and Paige Stamper, both of Farmington Hills, dance during the fireworks two years ago.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Where there’s smoke, there’s fireworks — at least around this time of the year — and city officials want to make sure people light up the night with caution and care.


“We’re not going to stop people from doing it. We just want it to be supervised and (people to) have common sense,” Farmington Hills Fire Lt. James Neufeld said. “The main thing is people should be aware before, during and after (lighting fireworks) for safety. And not (be) under the influence of anything.”


In 2011, the state Legislature passed laws expanding the use of legal fireworks beyond just sparklers, smoke bombs, spinners and helicopters; the new laws allow residents to purchase consumer-grade fireworks in Michigan, a potential $12 million source of revenue.


Neufeld said consumer-grade fireworks are not the “same old thing”  that sparkles from the ground.


“Some of them will go a few hundred feet. That is why we are saying be cognizant of weather conditions, where it is blowing and where it lands,” he said.


Fireworks can only legally be shot off the day before, the day of and the day after July 4 and nine other holidays — New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.


Local noise ordinances regulate loud noises between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The maximum penalty for using fireworks on days other than the legally allowable days is up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.


According to the city, the Farmington Hills fireworks ordinance states that consumer fireworks may be discharged  between 8 a.m. and midnight on the day before, the day of and the day after a national holiday. The Farmington Hills Fire Department does not support the use of fireworks by untrained professionals because of safety reasons, but if residents choose to use fireworks, it should be outdoors in a clear area only. People should keep a bucket of water or a working water hose nearby. Never relight a dud firework — wait a minimum of 20 minutes to pick up a used firework with a long-handled tool and then soak it in a bucket of water. Have a designated adult fireworks handler, and never use homemade fireworks or illegal explosives.


For the full list of rules, go to www.fhgov.com.


Tim Tutak, Farmington-Farmington Hills Emergency Preparedness Commission chair, said during a June 1 commission meeting that residents should wear safety goggles and leather gloves “just in case something goes off in your hands.”


As a child in the late 1940s, Tutak said, he grew up using just sparklers — and still he was injured.


“The sparkler went out and I picked it up wrong and I got burned,” he said.


He said that people using fireworks should not light them with matches but should instead use a lighter with a safety lock.


Fire Lt. Larry Gauthier said the Fire Department prefers that residents don’t use fireworks at all and “leave it to the professionals.”


He added that since that is most likely not going to happen, there is an aggressive and progressive Fire Department education program underway.


“I’d like to think citizens are attentive and listening to our message and responding accordingly.”


Deputy Fire Chief Lee Panoushek said there have not been any fireworks-related house fires in the area that he recalls. To continue that fire-free streak, he is reminding residents to not place any hot fireworks in their garbage in their house. Place used fireworks in a steel can outside.


Neufeld said residents should have respect for others in the area by cleaning up any leftover fireworks.


“Look for any embers or whatever the firework might not have exploded — there could be unexploded fireworks laying around that did not go off,” he said. “Just ... being a good citizen.”


For more information, call Fire Department Administrative Staff Lt. James Neufeld at (248) 871-2800.

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