SIDNEY — It’s the time of year when the sky is filled with all different colors as fireworks displays celebrate the birthday of the United States.
The Fourth of July, said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, is a time for celebration, but it’s also a time to make sure your holiday is a safe one.
“The state of Ohio, on this holiday, makes liars out of Ohioans,” said Lenhart. “There is a law in effect that says if you buy firecrackers and bottle rockets, you have to sign an affidavit stating that within 48 hours of your purchase, you will take them out of the state of Ohio to set them off.
“We’re hoping by 2020 this law will be resolved and people can buy their fireworks and set them off in the state legally,” he said.
At this time, he said, Ohioans can legally buy trick and novelty items, such as smokes, sparklers, snaps and snakes at Walmart and other big box stores.
“You have to take out of state firecrackers, bottle rockets and all other forms of fireworks,” said Lenhart.
If a person is caught setting off one of the illegal fireworks, etc., it’s a first degree misdemeanor and has a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail penalty attached to it.
“If a citizen is shooting something off and it’s bothering the neighbors and they call us, we’re going to the residence and asking them to stop,” said Lenhart.
“I’m more concerned about civil responsibilities such as if someone gets hurt by the fireworks,” he said.
On an average, 14,000 people will visit the emergency room over the Fourth of July holiday across the United States, he said. Those injuries deal with fireworks, sparklers and other items used to celebrate the holiday. Ten people a year die from the injuries, he said.
The majority of the injuries are to a person’s eyes or face.
“Fifty percent of the injuries are from burns,” said Lenhart. “Thirty-six percent of the injuries are to the person’s hands.”
And more males than females suffer injuries on the Fourth of July, he said.
“Seventy-four percent of males are more likely to get hurt,” said Lenhart. “Thirty-four percent of the injuries are to people 25 to 44 years of age. Twenty-three percent of children 1 to 9 years of age get hurt.”
Lenhart has shared some safety tips if you’re planning to set off your own fireworks:
• Always read the directions on the fireworks’ labels.
• Have a responsible adult supervise the event.
• Never give fireworks to children to set off.
• Remember that alcohol and fireworks don’t mix.
• Wear safety glasses when setting off fireworks.
• Never re-light a dud firework that didn’t go off the first time. Put it in water to make sure it doesn’t go off unexpectedly.
• Don’t give sparklers to young children. The sparklers heat up to 1,200 to 1,800 degrees. Hold the sparklers away from your body. Only light one sparkler at a time. Do no put two or three together and light it as one sparkler.
• Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks.
“If you have pets, don’t take them to firework displays,” said Lenhart. “If you are at home, put your pet in an interior room with no windows to protect the animals from the lights and sounds.
“Make sure your pet has its tags on in case the animal runs away because the fireworks scare it, said Lenhart. “And never shoot off fireworks near your pets.”
Lenhart also reminds everyone that firearms and fireworks don’t mix.
“Firearms don’t work in that arena either,” he said.
And what’s the best way to enjoy the holiday fireworks?
“The best way to enjoy the fireworks to watch a professional set them off at the local communities festivals,” said Lenhart.
Firework displays are planned at the Fort Loramie Liberty Days for Friday, June 29, at 10 p.m.; New Knoxville Independence Days on Saturday, June 30, at 10 p.m.; and Sidney’s Fourth of July celebration, Wednesday, July 4, at Sidney Middle School at 10 p.m.
“We want you to enjoy the Fourth of July,” said Lenhart. “Have a good time but be safe.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.