Dowagiac Fire Department offers Fourth of July safety tips

DOWAGIAC — With the Fourth of July weekend around the corner, Dowagiac residents are preparing to celebrate with families and friends over a cookout, and in many cases, at-home fireworks.

Though the flashes and bangs of fireworks are an essential part of the Fourth of July for many, state and local officials are asking that residents take precautions to prevent fires and personal injury.

Fireworks cause nearly 18,500 fires a year in the U.S., burning structures and injuring people, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The risk of fire is increased during hot, dry weather, which the southwest Michigan region expects over the weekend. Some DNR officials encourage residents to leave fireworks to the professionals. However, if residents choose to take part in at-home fireworks, the DNR asks that residents use caution.

“If fireworks are part of your celebration, take precautions to prevent wildfires and keep friends and family safe from accidents,” said DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers. “Keeping an eye on the weather is important, too. Dry days with high winds are the riskiest.”

The DNR offered the following tips to reduce risks with at-home fireworks:

• Toss hand-held fireworks such as sparklers into a bucket of water when finished

• Keep a water source ready to spray embers from fireworks. Spray the entire area where using fireworks with water when done.

• Do not try to re-ignite fireworks that will not go off.

• Do not launch fireworks into forests or fields. Dry grass or leaves could ignite.

• Always supervise children and keep fireworks away from the face and eyes.

• Sky lanterns, also popular on holidays, can start wildfires, too. The wires they leave behind can also entangle wildlife. 

In Dowagiac, Deputy Fire Chief Robert Smith could not recall many fires caused by fireworks within city limits in recent years. However, he said it is still important for residents to follow state guidelines and take necessary precautions when using at-home fireworks.

“Keep them away from structures,” Smith advised. “Have water at the ready. Don’t try to light one that doesn’t go off. There’s all kinds of pretty common-sense stuff here. People just need to be safe and use common sense.”

With restrictions now loosened following months of COVID-19 related closures, Smith believes more southwest Michigan residents will be looking to celebrate this holiday weekend. With many fireworks displays canceled, he also knows many will be turning to at-home fireworks. He encouraged all those celebrating this weekend to be safe and use recommended precautions.

“I just want everyone to have a safe holiday weekend,” Smith said. “That’s what we always want.”

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