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Be safe, considerate with fireworks

Remember, they’re a privilege, not a right

By The Mercury

Most of the time, the rat-a-tat-tats and window-rattling booms we hear on a daily basis emanate from Fort Riley. They’re the sounds of freedom.

This week we will hear plenty of other booms and rat-a-tat-tats — fireworks. They, too, are the sounds of freedom, though to be fair, some residents consider them noisy, messy, even dangerous, nuisances.

We’ll concede that fireworks can be dangerous, but we generally welcome the four-day fireworks bonanza that runs from 8 a.m. until midnight Tuesday through Friday, July 4. As usual, some folks started early, and others will be shooting off fireworks after the deadline. Unfortunately, some residents also will ignore the nightly deadlines of midnight. We strongly discourage that, not just because it’s against the law but because it’s inconsiderate and because it will bring closer the day personal fireworks are further restricted, possibly banned.

Perhaps because of greater public awareness of the hazards, last year was comparatively safe from July 1 through July 4. The city reported nine fireworks-related calls on July 4 (and July 5) with no losses. In 2012, there were 15 such calls, including two structure fires. Total fireworks-related losses in 2012 exceeded $380,000.

Preventing injuries and property damage isn’t difficult for residents who exercise common sense. Parental supervision is essential, particularly with younger children, and having water nearby can keep a small emergency from turning into a disaster.

We remind participants that shooting off fireworks of any kind in city streets, alleys, parks or other public property is illegal. It’s also illegal to shoot or throw fireworks at people or vehicles. What’s more, aerial luminaries — so-called sky lanterns or floating lanterns –— are illegal.

The police will be out and about, but they’re more interested in protecting people and property than in spoiling anyone’s fun. Heed their warnings.

This is a fun time of year, and for most of us, fireworks add to the enjoyment. Let’s not forget, though, that neighbors who have young children or who go to work early deserve some sleep and that the smoke and sulfur from fireworks can make breathing all the more difficult for individuals with respiratory problems. And we ask that the countless residents who choose to ignore the prohibition against shooting fireworks in the street have the decency to pick up after themselves.

We’ve got a good thing gong here with fireworks. Let’s not blow it.

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