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Firing Up for the Fourth

Barcroft, country club displays ready as fire marshals stress fireworks safety.

For firecracker enthusiasts, there’s a rule of thumb to remember this Friday. “They can’t have anything that goes boom,” said Capt. George Williams, assistant fire marshal for the Arlington Fire Department

In addition to that law prohibiting explosives like firecrackers, Williams said the department stresses other guidelines for having a safe and legal July 4. Virginia law prohibits fireworks that launch higher than 12 feet in the air. All items for sale at fireworks stands in the county should be fine, said Williams, since fire department staffers have inspected and approved the stands.

But even legal fireworks must remain on private property. “If it’s in the street and one of my deputies pulls up, they’re going to issue a summons and take the fireworks,” said Williams. “Deputies will be out in all areas of the county, making sure everyone is following the rules.”

Arlington has seen few injuries related to fireworks in recent years, he said. “For the most part, everyone does a pretty good job here.”

Children should never handle fireworks, Williams said, and adults should keep a bucket of sand or a garden hose nearby in case sparks from fireworks touch off a small fire.

SAFETY IS ALSO a concern for people heading out to watch professional fireworks displays. Fort Myer will again open its gates to residents seeking a view of the annual display over the National Mall.

“It’s a pretty big deal around here,” said Sharon Walker, a spokeswoman for Fort Myer. Hatfield Gate, on Washington Boulevard and South Second Street, will open at 5 p.m., the only entrance open to cars. All other gates will be open for pedestrians.

Residents driving to the base will be bused from the parking lot to Whipple Field beginning shortly after 5 p.m. Buses will run continuously, round-trip, until everyone returns to their cars after the fireworks. Whipple Field is wheelchair-accessible.

It won’t be all fun and games though. “Security is still tight,” said Walker. Military police will operate security checkpoints, and there’s a long list of restrictions.

No cameras, backpacks, bags, strollers, chairs, pets, food, open flames, coolers, drinks, fireworks, alcohol or sporting activities like Frisbee, ball-throwing or running will be allowed. Spectators can bring cloth picnic blankets only.

Concession stands will sell hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, bottled water and sodas.

AS IN YEARS past, both Barcroft Park and Washington Golf and Country Club will offer their own local fireworks displays. Both Barcroft Park, in south Arlington, and the country club, in the north, will start lighting fuses at around 9: 15 p.m.

With 5,000 people expected at the country club, banquet manager Simon Carey had a simple tip for those wanting to see the fireworks: “Arrive early.” The clubhouse will not be open to the public, so Carey advised residents to park on Little Falls Drive and walk up the hill to the first tee.

Club managers are planning an especially large display this year. “This year is going to be better than most,” said Carey. “They gave us 300 extra rounds, so it’s going to be a good one.”

At press time, forecasters were calling for possible storms on the Fourth, and county officials are planning accordingly. In the event of rain, the Barcroft display will be postponed to Saturday, July 5.