ELKHART — While having fun and celebrating are central themes, local officials say safety and abiding by the rules should be top priorities during the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.
Elkhart police are reminding residents within city limits that fireworks and firecrackers this time of year are allowed only June 29 through July 9, and only from 5 p.m. until two hours after sunset.
On July Fourth, however, fireworks are allowed from 10 a.m. until midnight.
But people are not good at following the local ordinance, according to Lt. Travis Snider.
“We tend to see an increase starting around Memorial Day, it peaks around the Fourth, and then by Labor Day it’s pretty much done,” he said.
If Elkhart officers catch anyone launching fireworks outside of the allowed times, they will issue fines, Snider said.
In addition, Indiana law makes it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to ignite fireworks, and people can only use fireworks from special discharge locations, their own property or property that they have been given permission to use for fireworks.
“So essentially, public property, streets, other people’s property, you can’t launch them from,” Snider said. “By state statute, that would rule out the parks.”
Damaging property with fireworks is a Class A misdemeanor, while causing serious bodily injury to a person is a Level 6 felony, whether it is done intentionally, knowingly or recklessly, according to the statute.
Often during summer, starting unintentional fires can be a concern, according to Snider. But he said large amounts of rain this year has put a damper on that.
“But if it wouldn’t rain much between now and the Fourth, that could easily become a concern again,” he said.
Snider recommends having a hose ready just in case.
Dr. David VanRyn at Elkhart General Hospital’s emergency department said the hospital can tell when it’s fireworks season.
“We always have a significant issue over the course of the Fourth of July weekend. We will typically see a number of injuries resulting from fireworks, and these can be anything from simple burns to really catastrophic injuries,” VanRyn said.
The most common injuries are burns, which can be significant, the doctor said. The worst injuries are often associated with explosions or related to the eyes.
Homemade devices create the largest risk of significant injury, said VanRyn, who recommends not combining legal fireworks to one for a bigger thrill.
“Those are the ones that are usually responsible for the catastrophic injuries,” he said.
Another unsafe thing to put in the mix is alcohol, which significantly increases the chance of injury, according to the doctor.
Like Snider, he said children should be kept away from fireworks, even of the smallest varieties.
“Everyone thinks that sparklers are harmless, but they in fact are very high-intensity burn,” he said.
The largest group of people who visit VanRyn and his colleagues with fireworks-related injuries are males between age 15 and 30, but children make up a noteworthy portion.
“Our general advice is, leave the fireworks to the professionals,” he said.
And for those who will launch their own fireworks, VanRyn recommends wearing eye protection.
Elkhart’s display will be held on Wednesday, July 3, with a rain date of Thursday, July 4, in downtown’s Central Park.
The Elkhart Police Department offers this additional advice:
n Make sure the fireworks you are using are legal in your area.
n Make sure there is a bucket of water and or fire extinguisher nearby.
n Make sure to wear proper clothing, not too loose.
n Never use fireworks inside or near dry areas of grass, brush or leaves.
n If the firework fails to go off allow it to sit or put it out with water, then dispose of it. Do not look directly down at the firework.
n If an injury occurs, seek immediate medical attention.
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