Fireworks season brings bright lights, big hazards
July 2, 2013 (HAMMOND, Ind.) -- Fireworks will soon begin lighting up the sky in celebration of the Fourth of July, but the beautiful explosions in the air can be deadly and destructive on the ground.
Buying fireworks can be easy, but using them safely can be another matter. Because it is illegal to sell fireworks in Illinois, many Chicagoans come across the border and buy them in Indiana.
The 'ultimate backyarder', the 'predator', the 'happy face' -- you name it, and there is a firework named for it. Fireworks have come a long way since the invention of the Roman candle, and business at Krazy Kaplan's fireworks is booming.
"That is what keeps this industry fresh with all the innovative new products coming out, it makes it grow, grow, grow and grow," said Greg Kaplan, the owner of Krazy Kaplan's.
Terry Jones is loading up. Buying hundreds of dollars' worth of fireworks is an annual tradition for this Chicago resident.
"It's about loud for the adults and about bright lights for the kids," said Jones.
For the Hammond, Indiana fire department, it's about safety. It is a time of year firefighters dread, especially in the Hoosier State, where it is legal not only to sell fireworks, but it is also legal to shoot them off at night between June 29th and July 9th.
"They might go up 10 feet and take a left, and grandma will be sitting there in her lawn chair, and it will come right at her, so you never know which direction they are going to go," said Hammond Fire Chief Jeff Smith, who also offered some safety guidance for those who do choose to launch fireworks. "Use a long igniter; don't lean over the top of them; safety glasses; have a garden hose or something, a bucket of water nearby.
Those who sell fireworks and buy them have some advice as well.
"Don't wear any short clothing -- short-sleeved shirts, shorts; cover yourself up," said Kaplan.
"We make sure the kids are backing away for the show and not up close to the fireworks," said Jones.
"Nobody drinks while we do fireworks; they may do it during a barbecue or something like that, but not during the fireworks," said another customer named Dolores.
As far as the chief is concerned, he would rather people did not use fireworks, but he knows that is not realistic. So, at the very least, he is praying for rain on the Fourth, while Kaplan is hoping that Tuesday's rain clears up so he can sell more fireworks.
local, sarah schulte
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