Although fireworks-related injuries on New Year’s Eve usually are par for the course throughout the United States, Liberty County didn’t have any incidents that involved people being rushed to the emergency room.
“Surprisingly, but fortunately for our community, we did not have any fireworks-related injuries this year,” said Rene’ Harwell, Liberty Regional Medical Center’s director of marketing.
Generally, fireworks are prohibited in the state of Georgia, according to County Administrator Joey Brown, but sparklers and other small pyrotechnics are allowed to be bought and sold.
Georgia law allows for the purchase of sparklers with up to 100 grams of gunpowder, fountains up to 100 grams total for multiple tube items, and up to 75 grams for snakes, glow worms, snappers and party poppers, according to a directory for Georgia state law on the American Pyrotechnics Association website.
Products like firecrackers, torpedoes, roman candles and sky rockets that contain more than 100 grams of gunpowder may not be purchased here in Georgia or shot off, said Julie L. Heckman, the APA’s executive director and a spokesperson for the fireworks industry.
For those who illegally obtain fireworks that don’t meet state guidelines, the penalties are harsh, including fines and jail time.
“The sale and use of most types of fireworks, including firecrackers, skyrockets and cherry bombs, are illegal in Georgia and punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail,” said Wayne Whitaker, a public information specialist for the Georgia Insurance and Fire Commissioner’s Office.
Only five states — Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — ban usage of all consumer fireworks, also known as class C fireworks, which are common fireworks that can be bought from street vendors, according to a fact sheet from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Aside from the general noise complaints that come in at New Year’s, Cpt. David Edwards of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said the holiday was relatively quiet, and people behaved.
“We only had a few calls about fireworks, now that most are legal. No major issues to speak of,” Edwards said.
In addition to an absence of fireworks-related injuries, no fires were accidentally started in Liberty County as a result of fireworks misuse during the holiday celebration.
“The only fireworks-related fire that we responded to over New Year’s was in Columbia County, and five acres were burned,” Georgia Forestry Commission Public Relations Director Wendy C. Burnett said.
As for the lack of injuries this past holiday, Edwards thinks a few things have occurred.
“The public has been educated and people are using more common sense when using fireworks,” he said. “Public education has played an important role in reducing the number of injuries [as well].”
For those looking to store any leftover fireworks, he thinks a dry, safe place would work best.
“Bring them back out for the 4th of July,” he reasons. “Maybe save a little money doing so.”