On the lighter side of fireworks


July 3, 2020 — With many public fireworks displays canceled this year due to social distancing requirements, there has been a rise in the purchase of fireworks at fireworks stands everywhere.

The good news, according to the National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS), is that fireworks-related injuries have dropped by 75 percent in the last decade.

The bad news? Anyone over the age of 30 can tell you that today’s fireworks are about as exciting to watch as a pile of smoldering socks.

For example, it used to be that “sparklers” actually sparkled. They showered the air with tiny crackling embers so bright you could see them through your eyelids. The bravest kids would spin them like propellers, knowing full well their eyebrows would grow back by midsummer.

My kids don’t believe me when I tell them this. That’s because, each July Fourth, they have been handed “sparklers” that are basically sticks of incense that smell like sulfur.

No crackle. No shower of sparks. Just a momentary flame as the paper wick ignites and then, upon reaching its climactic flash point, fizzles into a puff of flatulent-smelling smoke.

Those living in Alabama or Tennessee have no idea what I’m talking about.

That’s because they have “real” fireworks — the kind that childhood memories (and a good portion of our nation’s first-strike capabilities) are made of. In addition, the only real restrictions they have are as follows:

1) If a skyrocket is longer than your boat trailer, it must be flagged during transport.

2) You must, by law, inform neighbors when using any fireworks that require a dynamite plunger.

3) Though there is no limit to the number of M-80s you can join together with a single fuse, the Department of Homeland Security warns it can’t be held responsible should your area, as a precautionary measure, be swept with heat-seeking missiles.

4) If you have studded tires, you must remove them.

(This has nothing to do with fireworks; it’s just a friendly reminder from the folks at the Highway Department.)

And lastly,

5) Any and all skyrockets capable of leaving southern air space must be pointed north.

The fact is, even though I whine about having wimpy fireworks here in Oregon, at least we have them. In Georgia, they are illegal. In the past, this has meant watching public fireworks displays or, as many Georgians do, simply going outside and facing toward Alabama.

Even though these displays are beautiful, it’s still not the same as being knocked unconscious by a runaway ground flower. Being as I lived in Atlanta for six years, I can tell you illegal fireworks do make their way across the Alabama border.

This, of course, is a huge problem.

Especially if your boat trailer isn’t big enough.

That all being said, my best wishes to you and yours as we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day this Saturday in driveways across the country.

It’s something that could be the best part of this year’s restrictions as we once again celebrate with friends and neighbors like we used to.

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