Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 3, 2013

Putting the sparks in Independence Day

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Independence Day traditions vary from place to place and family to family, although fireworks tend to be a major part of everyone’s All-American celebrations.

At the TNT fireworks tent in the parking lot of the Cannonsburg Walmart store, Tracy Nethercutt reported many customers’ spending habits seem to be a direct reflection of current financial considerations.

“Most people seem to love the buy-one-get-one free stuff. We’ve been selling a lot of these,” she said, pointing to a table loaded with Jumping Jacks, Purple-Rain Fountains and oversized M-1000 firecrackers. Customers who want a substantial fireworks display have been taking advantage of package deals with discounts, she said, adding she expects sales to slowly continue slowly building up until they pack up the tent at midnight on the Fourth of July.

Proceeds from the fireworks sales benefit the youth at Christian Faith Outreach in Ashland, Nethercutt explained, adding the tent generated nice profits last year and seems on track to do well again this year. Profits from the annual effort are used to take the young people to new places, and “just get them out there and let them see good things,” she said, adding they have an excellent place for customers to shop, and that Walmart has been extremely supportive of their efforts.

Another volunteer beneath the white tent said Kentucky’s fireworks regulations allow them to sell nearly anything people might want, although there has been a restriction applied to anything with a high magnesium content, such as sparklers, which can easily be modified into explosive devices. The classic silver sparklers, for example, simply need to be packed in quantity and wrapped tightly in black tape to achieve a much different result than was intended. As the mother of a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, Nethercutt said she tries to familiarize herself with every product they sell in hopes of providing guidance to other parents, or people who just want the best bang for their buck.

“Little kids don’t like the big noises. They like colors,” she advised, later adding, “More people want more color than big noise.”

Surprisingly, Nethercutt said the small “poppers,” which make a big bang when thrown against any hard surface, also remain quite popular.

“Our main concern is safety ... safety is my main concern,” she said.

Safety is also on the mind of Boyd County Emergency Management Director Brent Webster, who offered a list of fireworks safety reminders.

“If not handled properly, fireworks can cause burn and eye injuries in kids and adults. In the recent years, six deaths were linked to fireworks and hospital emergency departments treated 9,300 fireworks injuries,” Webster said. “Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed, but you’ll enjoy them much more knowing your family is safe. Take extra precautions this Fourth of July and your holiday will be a blast!”

Webster advises local families to attend public fireworks displays, “and leave the lighting to the professionals,” as well as taking precautions when allowing children to use things like sparklers, which can reach temperatures of 1,800 degrees — which is hot enough to melt gold. People should avoid illegal fireworks labeled with names such as M-80, M100, Blockbuster or Quarterpounder, which were outlawed in 1996 but continue to account for many fireworks injuries.

Never try to make your own fireworks, Webster said, and always use fireworks outside, with a water bucket and a water hose at the ready. Fireworks should never be pointed or thrown at another person, even in jest, he advises, and fireworks should never be hand-held or stood over while lighting. People lighting fireworks should wear eye protection and be aware that friction can cause fireworks to ignite if they are carried in a person’s pocket.

Fire departments respond to 50,000 fireworks-related blazes every year, Webster said, and fireworks should always be aimed away from things like homes and brush piles. Fireworks should be ignited one at a time, not in glass or metal containers, and duds should never be reignited, Webster said, adding children should not be allowed to retrieve pieces of fireworks, and that all fireworks should be soaked in water before disposal.

Webster also asks people to consider pets and nearby animals which have sensitive ears and might be upset by explosive sounds. Pets should be kept indoors during July 4 celebrations to reduce the risk of running away or being injured. If a child sustains a fireworks injury, Webster urged parents or supervisors to seek immediate medical help. If an eye injury occurs, don’t allow the child to touch or rub it as the action might cause more extensive damage, he said, and avoid application of ointments or water.

“Instead, cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye and immediately seek medical attention — your child’s eyesight may depend on it,” Webster said, adding burns should be treated by running cool water (not cold water or ice) over the burn before calling 911.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.