Traditional Values, Progressive Thinking – Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July

Mayor Gary Graham

Mayor Gary Graham

Next Monday, people across the nation will be celebrating Independence Day. While many Americans are patriotic throughout the year, the Fourth of July gives us the opportunity to really show our red-white-and-blue spirit. We typically celebrate our freedom and independence with barbeques, picnics, and family gatherings. Fireworks displays are traditionally a big part of these festivities.  This week’s column will share some facts about injuries that occur from fireworks as well as remind O’Fallon residents what types of fireworks can be used in our City.

According to PREVENT BLINDNESS AMERICA, nearly 13,000 fireworks victims keep hospitals busy every year. More than half of those injured are children.  Fireworks not only injure users, but also 40 percent of fireworks mishaps injure bystanders.

The three types of fireworks that keep hospital emergency rooms busy during this holiday period are bottle rockets, firecrackers, and sparklers. Bottle rockets and firecrackers can fly in any direction prior to exploding and sparklers burn at temperatures hot enough to melt gold.

One of the reasons fireworks injuries continue to occur is because people just don’t consider how dangerous these devices can be. People often don’t realize, until they are injured, that the risk of blindness or injury outweighs the excitement of taking risks with fireworks.

To protect the safety of our residents, O’Fallon enacted an ordinance many years ago that prohibits most types of fireworks from being detonated within the city limits. Examples of what is prohibited under Ordinance 1557 include firecrackers, torpedoes, bottle rockets, Roman candles, bombs, or other fireworks of like construction. Please note, sky lanterns are prohibited as well.

The types of items that can be used are snake or glow worm pellets, smoke devices, trick noisemakers known as “party poppers”, booby traps, snappers, trick matches, cigarette loads, and auto burglar alarms. Sparklers, toy pistols, toy canes, toy guns or other devices in which paper or plastic caps containing 0.25 grains or less of explosive compound are used, are also allowed, providing they are constructed so that the hand cannot come in contact with the cap when in place for the explosion.

Structure fires resulting from fireworks are also a very large concern. Due to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall during this time of year, the dangers of fireworks causing field and structure fires increases. Every year, the O’Fallon Fire Department responds to at least one structure fire caused by fireworks.

While certain types of fireworks can be legally used in the City, I highly encourage the citizens of O’Fallon to attend one of the many professional fireworks displays that occur in close proximity to our City. Why take the risk of injury to yourself and your family when you can safely view a spectacular show that is put on by professionals?

Our Police Department typically receives between 50 and 100 fireworks complaints during the 4th of July holiday season. In the past, police officers have made every effort to use discretion in the enforcement of this ban, and we have relied heavily on warnings in place of issuing formal charges for violating the ordinance. In most cases, these warnings have the desired effect of educating those who were not aware that most fireworks are illegal in the City of O’Fallon, and most people comply voluntarily. Unfortunately, some have taken advantage of these warnings only to return to the illegal activity as soon as the officer has left the area. Repeated violations will result in written citations and fireworks will be confiscated.

The health and safety of our residents and their loved ones is very important to me and by working together we can make sure that everyone remains safe over the Fourth of July holiday. The strong working relationship between City Hall and the residents we serve is yet another example of why O’Fallon is such a great community in which to live.