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Having a Safe and Legal Fourth

The Loudoun County Fire Marshal's Office is reminding that any firework that explodes, rises into the air, travels laterally or fires projectiles into the air is illegal to possess or use in Loudoun County without a permit. These include firecrackers, Roman candles and the like, as well as "shell" devices associated with aerial displays.

To help ensure a safe and happy Fourth of July, it is recommended that residents attend one of the many public fireworks displays that will be held throughout Loudoun County. The following are public displays approved by the Fire Marshal for 2005:

* South Riding, July 2

* Dulles Town Center Mall, July 2

* Lovettsville Community Center, July 3

* Ashburn Village Community Center, July 4

* Ida Lee Park, July 4

* Franklin Park Center, July 4

* Waterford Citizens Association, July 4

* Hillsboro Community Association, July 4

* Middleburg Community Center, July 4.

Should a person elect to enjoy fireworks at home, the Fire Marshal's Office requires that residents use only those "legal" or approved fireworks purchased at one of the many fireworks retail locations throughout the county. These locations are inspected and required to have a Fire Marshal permit. They are only allowed to sell consumer-grade fireworks that have been tested locally and listed for personal use. Fireworks that have not been listed are deemed unapproved and otherwise unlawful to possess.

Fire Marshal staff and other law enforcement personnel will be on active patrol during the upcoming holiday period. Illegal fireworks will be confiscated if found and the person possessing them may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The penalty if convicted includes fines up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. Citizens are encouraged to voluntarily surrender any illegal fireworks they possess by contacting the Fire Marshal's Office.

Even legal fireworks can be dangerous. They can cause serious burns due to emitted temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and are capable of igniting combustible materials, namely grass, woodland or a structure. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that approximately 10,000 Americans are injured annually due to fireworks. The overwhelming majority of these injuries are related to misuse or general carelessness with these devices.

The following are some safety tips to ensure the safe use of legal fireworks:

* Only discharge legal fireworks on your property, or on property where you have permission. Do not discharge fireworks on public property.

* Fireworks should only be ignited by responsible adults.

* Alcohol and fireworks are a bad mix.

* Spectators, especially children, should be kept back from the display at a safe distance, usually 15-20 feet at a minimum. If children are allowed to hold sparklers, provide close adult supervision. These devices are very hot, can cause serious burns and can also cause puncture wounds.

* Make sure that the area where the fireworks will be discharged is level and clear of debris and tall grass. Wet it down with a water hose before igniting the displays and maintain the water supply or other means of extinguishment close by during the display.

* If a "dud" or a firework that doesn't go off, is encountered, do not run up and investigate. The firework may still go off. Wet it down with a garden hose and let it sit undisturbed for at least one hour before removing.

* When finished with the display, wet down the fireworks and sparklers thoroughly and place them in a covered metal bucket outside over night to ensure that they are totally extinguished before discarding them.

Further questions on fireworks may be directed to the Fire Marshal's Office at 703-777-0333 during normal business hours. Or access this information by navigating to the "Fire Marshal" section on the Loudoun County Web site www.loudoun.gov.

For additional information on fireworks, visit the Web site of the American Pyrotechnics Association: www.americanpyro.com.