Beware dangers of fireworks, state officials warn

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As millions of Floridians get ready to set off fireworks this weekend, the state has a word of warning: 4th of July fun can turn into something much worse if people aren't careful.

The state's fire marshal recommends dousing all used and "dud" fireworks in water after use and only lighting one at a time.

Fireworks that light up the sky are synonymous with Independence Day.

But each year, the exploding entertainment sends about 5,000 people to the hospital. Customer Destin Benson said he keeps the stat in mind every July 4th.

"I've got children, so I'm usually the one who lights them so we get back pretty far away and make sure nobody gets hurt," Benson said. "I make sure everything's cleared, doesn't hit my neighbors houses and stuff."

Florida law bans fireworks that fly through the air or explode but a loophole allows customers to still buy them.

Rockets can be purchased for "agricultural purposes."

Fireworks vendor Victoria Osborne said because she can sell the items that explode, she needs to take the time to teach safety.

"It's a really big deal for us, you know," Osborne said. "It's not that hard to just take those few minutes. I always ask somebody if they've ever done mortars, if they've done firecrackers, if they've ever done anything that they're getting. I'll do a demonstration."

Department of Agriculture officials said that along with being a danger to people if misused, fireworks can cause plants and houses to catch fire in an instant.

"Fireworks, obviously, are firepower," said Erin Gillespie of the Florida Department of Agriculture. "When you shoot a firework off, it can land on your roof of your house, it can land in the brush of your yard, so we really encourage people to watch out for that when they're using fireworks."

The state fire marshal said to keep a fire extinguisher and water bucket handy when lighting off fireworks this weekend.

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