As Independence Day Approaches, Fire Marshal Cautions Montanans
HELENA – With Independence Day just a few days away, Montana Fire Marshall Terry Phillips Friday warned of the risks of injuries and fires related to fireworks.
“Fireworks, when they’re used properly, safely and legally, can be a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July,” Phillips said. “We just want Montanans to have a safe and sane Independence Day.”
Each year, in Montana and across the country, the improper use of fireworks can cause fires and injuries.
In 2000, fireworks injuries reported to U.S. hospital emergency rooms jumped by 29 percent, from 8,500 in 1999 to 11,000 in 2000. Forty percent of the increase was associated with fireworks used in January 2000, likely related to the celebration of the new millennium. The other 60 percent – 1,500 additional injuries – occurred around and after Independence Day.
- In 1998, an estimated 21,700 fires involving fireworks were reported across the nation, resulting in $15.6 million in direct property damage. In Montana, 85 fires involving fireworks were reported, resulting in an estimated $608,246 in direct property damage.
- Many times, these fires and injuries are a result of unsupervised use by young people. Nationally in 1999, more than a third of all firework-related injuries happened to young people aged 5 to 14. Young adults aged 15 to 24 suffered another 32 percent of firework-related injuries.
Phillips also stressed that the sale and possession of some fireworks is illegal. Montana law specifically prohibits the sale or possession of “sky rockets,” which are large rockets attached to a stick; roman candles and bottle rockets. Possession of these fireworks is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $500 and/or one to six months in jail.
A firework called an “M-80″ is federally regulated and is illegal everywhere in Montana, including Indian reservations. Possession of an M-80 could result in federal charges, Phillips said.
Also, anyone who causes a fire through the use of fireworks may be held liable for damages. The law covers costs to the state, and to other groups that may work to extinguish such fires.
“Before using fireworks, we hope Montanans will check on their local regulations,” Phillips said. “Fireworks laws can vary quite a bit from one location to the next. In some cases the use and possession may be illegal.”
Phillips said questions regarding fireworks or the suspected improper use of fireworks may be directed to local fire departments and law enforcement; county sheriffs’ offices or his office in Helena at 406-444-2050.