A fun and safe holiday

Published 9:46 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

With the Fourth of July weekend right around the corner, many Cass County residents are busy preparing to ring in the country’s birthday with a bang — literally.

In addition to the number of professional firework shows taking place across the county on Friday and Saturday, many residents will be celebrating Independence Day by firing off bottle rockets, firecrackers and other consumer-grade explosives from their homes over the course of the holiday weekend.

While certainly a fun and entertaining way to spend a night with the family, failing to take follow Michigan law or take proper safety precautions could result in serious legal — or lethal — consequences, said Cass County Undersheriff Richard Behnke.

“People may think they’re all having a good time, but one little mistake can lead to serious problems,” Behnke said.

Deputies with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office are quite active in the days leading up to the July holiday, with the department receiving frequent calls from people complaining about others setting off fireworks in advance of when they are legally allowed, Behnke said. Michigan law allows people to use fireworks on the day before, day of and day after the 10 national holidays.  That means — in the case of the Fourth of July — fireworks can be used by the general public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Even on the days when the activity is permitted, the undersheriff urged citizens to show courtesy to their neighbors by refraining from setting off fireworks during late hours of the night.

“Just because you are up at 3 a.m. doesn’t mean that your neighbors are,” Behnke said.

People are also only allowed to set off fireworks on their own personal property, or on a neighbor’s property with the owners’ permission, Behnke said. Citizens are not permitted to shoot off fireworks at parks, on roadways or any other public piece of property.

People ages 18 years of age and older can purchase and use consumer-grade fireworks, which include things like roman candles, firecrackers and bottle rockets. Low-impact fireworks, such as sparklers and cones, and novelties are also allowed.

People are encouraged to purchase fireworks only from reputable retailers that are licensed by the state, Behnke said.

“If someone is selling fireworks in a tent propped up on the side of the road, they’re probably not properly licensed,” he said.

Law enforcement also urges people to follow some basic safety precautions when lighting off fireworks, most important of which are to not allow children to light or handle explosives, and to refrain from drinking alcohol.

“[Alcohol] impairs judgment, and when you have impaired judgment it can lead to problems,” Behnke said.

State Fire Marshall Richard Miller offered other tips for staying safe this Fourth of July holiday, including:

• Have an adult supervise fireworks activities, including sparklers.

• Light fireworks one at a time, then immediately back away to a safe distance.

• Keep people and pets out of range before lighting fireworks.

• Light fireworks outdoors on a driveway or other paved surface at least 25 feet away from houses and highly flammable materials such as dry grass or mulch.

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

Douse spent fireworks in a bucket of water before discarding them.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.

• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

• Never point or throw fireworks at other people.

• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

• Never purchase or use unlabeled fireworks, experiment with or make your own fireworks.

• Never re-light “dud” fireworks that have not fully functioned; (instead, wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).