Sunday, July 01, 2001

Buyers get a lot of bang for bucks


Fireworks stores draw summer crowds

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Just about everybody in Mandy Katona's family chips in for her July trip to Indiana and a big blast of fun.

        Besides riverboat gambling, southeastern Indiana has a seasonal attraction that draws crowds with money from neighboring Ohio and Kentucky — fireworks.

[photo] Visitors from Owen County, Ky., Lydia Boutwell and her son, Matthew, make their selections at Party at Trav's.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        The Katonas spent a hefty $1,400 on fireworks. “Our family has been doing this since before I was born,” said Ms. Katona, 27, of Finneytown.

        “We like to keep our display pretty quiet,” she said. “We do a lot of things with colors. Things that go up in the sky. There are dogs in the neighborhood and older people we don't want to disturb.”

        But as amateur displays grow louder and more colorful, so do the dangers, health officials warn.

        Injuries caused by fireworks are on the rise locally. In 1999, eight children were treated at Children's Hospital Medical Center for fireworks-related injuries. Last year, that number rose to 19. Most were minor, but one required hospitalization.

[photo] Kathy Edwards shops for fireworks at Party at Trav's on U.S. 50 in Greendale Friday.
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        Dr. Constance West, director of the Pediatric Ophthalmology Department at Children's, said youngsters should never be allowed near fireworks. “Eye injuries can be devastating. I've seen everything from children poking sparkers in their eyes, to eye burns from exploding materials and chemicals.”

        Dr. Richard Kagan, director of the University Hospital Burns Unit, said fireworks seldom cause serious burns, but frequently cause cosmetically visible injuries to the face, arms, hands or neck. “I've seen a person who had a rocket shoot into his mouth. He will never be able to swallow normally for the rest of his life,” Dr. Kagan said. Another suffered burns to his groin after he placed what he thought was a “dud” in his pants pocket.

        People out shopping for fireworks Friday said they planned to take precautions to avoid injury.

        Bill Ingram, 41 of Alexandria, said he will present another display this year — a mix of noise and color for his three children and neighbors. “But, I'm real concerned about safety.”

FIREWORKS LAWS
    OHIO: Allows purchase and use of sparklers, trick noisemakers, snakes and other novelties. Other fireworks can be purchased as long as buyers agree not to use them in Ohio. It is illegal to use any other type of fireworks without a permit. Violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Ohio purchasers also must sign a form requiring out-of-state transport of fireworks within 48 hours. Violating it constitutes falsification, which also is a first-degree misdemeanor and doubles the maximum penalty.
    KENTUCKY: Allows purchase and use of some fireworks, including sparklers, fountains, illuminating torches, wheels, ground spinners, snakes and other novelties. Banned are those with wings and labels saying “explosive,” “flaming balls,” “firecracker” and “rocket.” Violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
    INDIANA: Allows purchase and use of sparklers, fountains, illuminating torches, wheels, ground spinners, snakes and other novelties. Other fireworks can be purchased as long as buyers agree not to use them in-state. Violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $5,000 fine and one year in jail.
    FEDERAL: Some fireworks, such as M-80s, cherry bombs and large aerial tube shells, are banned for unlicensed use.
    EXCEPTIONS: Some cities and villages might have stricter laws. Check with the local police or fire department.
        Mr. Ingram said he will light the fuses with a bucket of water, a hose, a first aid kit and spray burn medication close by.

        Wednesday will be the fourth year Eric Sorrell and his family enjoy a barbecue and backyard fireworks.

        “It's just a good time and it beats going out and fighting crowds (at community displays),” said Mr. Sorrell, of Middletown, whose family will spend about $400.

        Sheila Chrisman, a co-owner of Party at Trav's fireworks stand, said she cautions buyers.

        Such items as reloadable canisters, multi-shot tubes and rockets are not playthings.

        “I suggest customers take some time to set up their display. Make sure the multishot (tubes) and canisters are level and wedged tightly between bricks so they don't turn over. I suggest a piece of PVC pipe for rockets. We stopped carrying wire sparklers because children were stepping on (discarded ones) in the grass and could burn their feet. We only sell wooden-stick sparklers,” she said.

        Ms. Chrisman said fireworks buyers “are much more into color and performance than noise nowadays. Fireworks are getting more powerful with better quality and they are cheaper and safer. But, you have to be careful.”

        People shooting off fireworks also need to be aware that some parts of their displays are illegal. Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana allow the use of sparklers and smaller novelty items, but prohibit setting off firecrackers, skyrockets and similar explosives.

       



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