Local News Spotlight

A dry Fourth of July could ignite trouble

Updated: 2012-07-03T19:21:38Z

By SANGEETA SHASTRY

The Kansas City Star

As sure as Wednesday follows Tuesday, Floyd Peoples knows what’s coming this week.

Fireworks. Injuries. Fires. Repeat.

“I can assure you that we’re going to have some sad circumstances over the next few days with fires,” said Peoples, chief fire marshal with the Kansas City Fire Department.

More fires are reported on the Fourth of July than any other day in a typical year, according to a report from the National Fire Protection Association. In 2010, fireworks sparked about 15,500 fires nationwide, causing eight deaths, 60 injuries to civilians and about $36 million in property damage.

Especially with this year’s tinder-dry conditions, fire departments across the area are encouraging people to skip the Roman candles and leave pyrotechnics to the experts.

“They’re not shooting bottle rockets. These are professionals,” said Kansas City Fire Department spokesman Lew Hendricks. “Go see professionally done fireworks displays because there’s much less risk.”

Although at least one city display has been postponed — North Kansas City pushed its show, which had been scheduled for Saturday, to an unspecified date — other cities are sticking to their plans.

Street sales of fireworks are down slightly this year, said Mike Collar, president of Winco Fireworks International LLC, which is based in Prairie Village and has retailers in 35 states.

“The drought’s not helping, obviously, but it’s really because (the Fourth) falls on a Wednesday,” Collar said. He thinks more customers will show up today and Wednesday.

But business is “just devastated” in Colorado, where the Waldo Canyon wildfire has ravaged 28 square miles. Sales in Wyoming are down about 50 percent.

Echoing the advice of fire departments, his company cautions customers to use common sense. Make sure you have a garden hose or a bucket of water, Collar said. Follow the instructions on the fireworks package, and designate a “sober shooter.”

That’s if you live where fireworks are legal, of course. Here’s where some of the area’s largest cities stand:

Kansas City, Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee and Lenexa don’t allow private fireworks.

In other cities, it gets complicated, with too many rules and exceptions to be listed here. (Check the cities’ websites for all the details.)

Liberty allows fireworks today and Wednesday, from 4 to 10 p.m. Aerial fireworks — those that go higher than six feet — are allowed only on single-family residential lots three acres or larger.

Independence is allowing people to shoot off certain types of fireworks from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Thursday and from 10 a.m. to midnight Wednesday. It’s illegal for people to launch fireworks onto other people’s property, as well as near churches, schools, hospitals, historical sites and anything that could ignite easily, like a gas station or a store selling fireworks. People also aren’t allowed to shoot fireworks from or at cars.

Setting off fireworks with a permit is allowed in Lee’s Summit, but the city has restrictions on what types of fireworks are allowed and where and when they can be shot. Blue Springs, too, has a listing of acceptable times and places to shoot off fireworks.

The bottom line, Peoples said: “If you’re in a city that allows (fireworks), you need to pay very close attention to where you’re shooting, and how to handle an accident.”

The Star’s Eric Winkler contributed to this story.

To reach Sangeeta Shastry, call 816-234-4690 or send email to sshastry@kcstar.com.

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