About Those Fireworks...
Fireworks are the staples of a Fourth of July celebration, but a change in state law added some frustrations for operators this year.
This will be the first year the state will require pyrotechnic operators to be licensed through the Office of State Fire Marshall (OSFM). The new law became effective Feb. 1 this year.
Senate Bill 563 was passed by the N.C. General Assembly in August 2009 in response to an explosion on Ocracoke Island last Fourth of July that killed four operators and injured another.
Anyone wishing to use pyrotechnics must submit an application to the Office of State Fire Marshal, attend a safety class and score a passing grade of 80 percent on the permit exam. The law requires any firework display to be conducted by a trained operator with a license.
Previously, there was not a permitting process in the state. Local jurisdictions set the rules and permitting process within the area covered, leaving many unaware of the change in law.
To date, 350 people have completed the required training to receive the 3-year license - not nearly enough to cover the number of fireworks displays held across the state.
On Friday, Gov. Bev Purdue signed Senate Bill 992, which allows the OSFM to issue 30-day temporary licenses to help with the high demand for pyrotechnic operators over the holiday. To obtain a temporary license, people must be at least 21 years old, pay a $25 fee, have conducted at least six displays within the last 10 years and complete the training course and written exam within 60 days for a license.
If anyone obtains a temporary license and fails to complete the full training and exam within the 60 days, they will be barred from the pyrotechnics license program until September 2011.
Fortunately, the law change will not affect the celebrations in Watauga County. Licensed operators, or those temporarily licensed, will be conducting the fireworks displays held at Tweetsie Railroad, Hound Ears, and Westglow Resort and Spa. A private citizen, Raymond Spann, has also been approved, according to Watauga Fire Marshal Steve Sudderth.
Fireworks at home
For those wanting to keep the fireworks a little closer to home, the Boone Fire Department and the North Carolina Forest Service want to remind residents to celebrate safely.
More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. A majority of these are caused by firework misuse.
Fireworks are largely restricted for consumers in the state, with only a few legal for purchase.
Anything that explodes, is projected into the air, firecrackers, rockets and Roman candles are illegal. Sparklers, poppers and ground fountains are allowed.
Fireworks should only be used outdoors in an open area, such as a driveway, gravel or dirt area far from all structures. A bucket of water, wet towel and water hose should be kept nearby to extinguish fireworks after use. The N.C. Forest Service recommends soaking used fireworks in a bucket of water before disposing of the debris.
Boone Fire reminds residents to avoid loose clothing while using fireworks and stand several feet away from a lit fuse. If a device does not go off, do not stand over it and be sure it is fully extinguished with water. Always read and follow all directions and warning labels.
If a fire is started, the person lighting the fuses is responsible.