To many, the Fourth of July means fireworks.
With a big, jovial, dancing gorilla bouncing across TV screens in Southcentral Alaska promoting the sale and use of fireworks, one easily could assume they’re OK here, but they’re not.
Fireworks are illegal in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and in many other parts of Alaska.
Fireworks may not be purchased or shot off in the city of Kenai, according to Assistant Fire Chief James Baisden.
Fireworks are not legal in Soldotna, according to Police Chief John Lucking Jr.
Fireworks are illegal on all forested lands in Alaska, according to Division of Forestry fire prevention officer Sharon Roesch.
While various local ordinances call for penalties of $300 to $500 for each violation of the fireworks ban on the Kenai Peninsula, the real concern is public safety, according to police and fire officials.
“Above all, we want to make certain people exercise extreme caution during this fire season,” Lucking said.
People traveling to the peninsula who happen to pass through Houston, Alaska, might be misled into thinking fireworks are legal because of Gorilla Fireworks stands along the road, said Central Emergency Services Fire Marshal Gary Hale.
The visitors as well as local residents might be further confused by the bombardment of Gorilla television ads touting the pyrotechnics, which are only legal in Houston.
Roesch said all types of common fireworks are illegal, including Roman candles, skyrockets and firecrackers.
When asked if she recalls any fireworks-related incidents in recent years, Roesch said, “We always have something.
“People usually go to a safe area like the beach (to light fireworks), and they blow back onto bluff vegetation and start a fire.
“That’s when we get called,” she said.
Hale said besides the fire danger, personal injuries are frequent among those using fireworks.
“Most of the injuries are to children who get burned,” he said.
“Many of them are burned by sparklers, which get extremely hot,” he said.
Sparklers also are illegal on the peninsula.
Emergency rooms in the United States treated approximately 9,600 people for fireworks-related injuries in 2004, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.
Of those injuries, 21 percent were eye injuries, 21 percent were to other parts of the head and face, and 33 percent were to the hand or a finger.
The risk of fireworks injury was twice as high for children under age 5 and youth ages 5 to 19 than for the general population, the association reported.
Sparklers and fountains accounted for 40 percent of the fireworks injuries requiring emergency room visits in 2004.
Borough code only allows fireworks to be used in public displays by fair associations, amusement park groups with a permit issued by the state fire marshal’s office, the borough mayor and the fire department, Hale said.
The permitted displays must be set off by pyrotechnicians licensed to operate in the state who have insurance, he said.
Only one public fireworks display is scheduled on the peninsula during the upcoming Independence Day holiday.
The city of Seward will shoot off fireworks at midnight Monday along the city’s waterfront, advertising the display as a way “to kick off your Independence Day celebration.”
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