Fireworks, fun, and safety

Published 1:07 am Thursday, January 1, 2009

Forget the sparklers of long ago past, the bottle rockets, and Roman candles. Never mind the pinwheels, snappers or old-fashioned firecrackers. These days it’s the dazzling Crackling Spiders, the explosive Dixie Celebrations, or the colorful Red, White, and Blue fireworks that command attention for New Years.

“Our most popular is the Battle of Independence,” said Tia Schubert, owner of Crazy Carl’s Fireworks on U.S. Highway 11, just north of Picayune, adding that not only does it “whistle, pop, and crackle,” the large pyrotechnic also displays an array of dazzling colors.

Schubert, who has worked in a fireworks stand since she was 11, said that the eve of passing from the current year into the next is the biggest sale day of the year for her. “New Years is the busiest, even more than the 4th of July. I’ll be here checking people out as fast as I can and the line will stretch all around to back there,” said Schubert as she pointed to a spot 40 feet away.

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Kids, Schubert said, tended to favor the fireworks that resembled airplanes, tank, or trucks and not only whiz and whirl and puff smoke, but also had some other exciting trick. “Kids tend to like the air command and tanks,“ said Schubert as she held up an eight-inch cardboard military vehicle, explaining that not only did the small vehicle spin, produce sprays of colors, and emit smoke, but that it also shot a tank out the back.

In contrast, said Schubert, adults tended to gravitate toward the larger, louder and more visually stunning varieties of explosives. “They like the big ones,” she said, pointing out the larger packs of fireworks such as the two-foot tall Double Trouble, which claims to produce “magnificent color, changing burst” and seven “unique effects.”

No matter what type of fireworks fan comes to the stand, whether a person prefers the florals, the missiles, or the patriotic-themed pyrotechnics, Schubert said, there was something for everyone nowadays including a spring-loaded non-firework that sprayed colorful confetti with a twist, or snappers that pop when thrown to the ground. “There are new kinds all the time,” she said.

To properly enjoy those fireworks, said Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown, parents needed to be involved when it came to children and fireworks. “The first thing we always stress is we always ask the parents to make sure their children are aware of the dangers of fireworks,” he said. “We want the adults to get involved.”

Noting that Picayune has been fortunate over the years with no major injuries or deaths involving the use of fireworks, Chief Brown said that the biggest danger his department usually faced during fireworks season is when it is combined with dry conditions.

“Right now, the ground is pretty moist but the top of the grass is starting to dry out,” said Chief Brown. “And if we do not get any rain, it could be quite flammable by the weekend.”

Chief Brown said that one year the fire department was physically and mentally tested as a result of wayward fireworks. “A couple of years ago it kept us busy,” he said of the fireworks that set some dry grass on fire and then quickly spread to nearby homes. “But, we were able to keep a couple of houses from burning down.”

Even so, he said, celebrating the New Year with fireworks could be a lot of fun and enjoyment for everyone.

“Make sure that adults are around and the fireworks are popped with supervision,” said Chief Brown. “When someone does get hurt, it is normally not adults, so I’d advise parents to stay involved in the activity.”

Schubert agreed, adding that although fireworks can be dangerous, if individuals use some basic safety guidelines, everyone can have a good time.

“Don’t stand over top of them when lighting them,” Schubert said. “And don’t try and pack too many in, never relight a fuse that didn’t go off, and just use good sense.”