Published: Jun 29, 2010 3:29 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 29, 2010 12:29 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink today held a press conference to encourage Floridians to put safety first as they celebrate this Fourth of July. CFO Sink was joined at the press conference by Tallahassee Fire Chief Cindy Dick and local firefighters, State Fire Marshal Division Director Julius Halas, and State Emergency Management Bureau Chief Gwen Keenan. 
 “As we gather this Fourth of July weekend to celebrate and honor America’s Independence, I urge Floridians and visitors to enjoy themselves while taking the proper fire safety precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said CFO Sink.  “All fireworks can be dangerous, and that makes it all the more crucial that the public only use state-approved fireworks for their celebrations.”

Nearly 7,000 Americans were treated for fireworks-related injuries in emergency rooms in 2008, and fireworks caused an estimated 22,500 reported fires that year.

“The Fourth of July is an occasion that brings many families and friends together and we want to make sure the special day is observed safely this weekend,” said Director Halas. “Only use state-approved fireworks and be sure to pay attention to your surroundings, especially around children.”

Under Florida law, only sparklers approved by CFO Sink’s Division of State Fire Marshal are legal for consumer usage.  However, an exemption in the law allows for the use of un-approved fireworks for agricultural purposes, such as frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.  Anyone using fireworks under the agricultural exemption must have a permit from the Sheriff in the county where they will use the product.  Without a permit, it is illegal to use fireworks in Florida, which includes: shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers. 

As a general guideline, anything that flies through the air or explodes is not allowed for consumer use.  Floridians should not sign “waivers” in order to purchase fireworks.  Signing a waiver will not clear a consumer of responsibility should you be caught illegally using fireworks, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

There is still a risk of injury with the use of legal sparklers.  When lit, some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees - at least 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane lighter.  For a list of hundreds of sparklers that are legal to use in Florida, as well as safety tips, visit the State Fire Marshal’s web site at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/sfm/sparklerindex.htm
To celebrate safely, CFO Sink advises Floridians to follow these precautions:
·         Use sparklers and other legal novelties on a flat, hard surface.  Do not light them on grass.
·         Use sparklers in an open area.  Keep children and pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited sparklers.
·         Light only one item at a time and never attempt to re-light a “dud.”
·         Don’t use any unwrapped items or items that may have been tampered with.
·         Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on-hand for emergencies.  It’s a good idea to drop used sparklers in a bucket of water. 
·         Only purchase fireworks from licensed vendors.
·         Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
·         Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
·         Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them off in metal or plastic tupperware containers.