TAMPA, Fla. — With cities around the nation and the Tampa Bay area canceling major fireworks shows this year, a record number of people are expected to light off their own backyard displays.
That’s got local fire departments more than a little concerned.
Keith and Elizabeth Heingarten were heading to Phantom fireworks on Monday ready to drop big bucks on their own display.
“This year there’s going to be nowhere to go watch them, so we’re going bigger than we normally do this year,” Elizabeth Heingarten said. “Usually, we spend about $2,000, I think. This year we’re going to be way over that.”
With so many local cities canceling their professional pyrotechnic shows due to COVID-19, firework sales are booming.
People like Frank Lattimore, who lives just a few minutes from downtown St. Petersburg, would have usually headed out to watch the display. But with the event canceled this year, he was buying his own pyrotechnics.
“That’s why I’m getting some,” he said.
William Weimer, Vice President of Phantom Fireworks, said people are seeking substitutes to their favorite shows.
“People want to substitute something, and people who are not able to go out and see community fireworks shows are going to do their best to substitute,” said Weimer.
Tampa’s Fire Marshal John Reed says it’s got them, and other fire rescue agencies, concerned.
“We do anticipate we’re going to have more call volume because of that,” Reed said.
More fireworks will likely mean more fires to deal with, but their primary concern is for people’s safety.
“We know, of course, that there are going to be injury possibilities from people that aren’t generally utilizing fireworks,” Reed said.
And with fireworks, we’re often talking about the kinds of injuries that land people in a hospital emergency room, which is the last thing anyone needs during a COVID-19 spike.
“You know, it could cause complications if we all of a sudden have to take care of a lot of injuries due to the fireworks,” Reed said.
And this Independence Day, local fire departments shouldn’t expect to get much of a legal assist from local law enforcement. That’s because earlier this year, the State of Florida passed a law making fireworks perfectly legal on July 4, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
“You know, there’s a lot of new people that are probably not going to be used to lighting fireworks that don’t realize the potential that can happen if they go wrong,” Reed said.
Firefighters suggest if you are going to light off your own fireworks to have a hose and a bucket of water nearby that can put out small fires if they start and dunk any duds or fireworks after they cool off. Be aware of your surroundings. Light fireworks from a hard surface, not grass.
And use a long lighter to put as much distance between you and a firework’s fuse as possible.
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