Dry conditions raise firework dangers

Wednesday, December 28th 2005, 9:56 am
By: News On 6

The statewide burn ban is putting a damper on holiday traditions. First, Tulsa's annual "Burning of the Greens" was cancelled due to hazardous conditions. We now learn, shooting-off fireworks at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, may cost you more than it's worth.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler says even though the entire state is under a burn ban, you can still buy fireworks, even shoot them off, outside most city limits.

An Oklahoma City area blaze injured a firefighter and a child. Investigators believe it started with children shooting fireworks.

"Doesn't make sense. It's illegal to throw a lit cigarette from a car, so how can it be a good thing to operate fireworks in this kind of weather conditions." Tulsa Fire Captain Larry Bowles says in 22 years as a firefighter, he's never seen a grassfire season quite like this. "When all the conditions come in to that perfect storm, if you will. When the humidity and temperature and wind and the dry conditions, the state of drought that we're in now, I guess you'd have to go back a lot of years to find this dry a year in Oklahoma.”

Like any other time of year, it's illegal to shoot-off fireworks inside the city limits of most Oklahoma towns. Even in rural areas where it may be legal, you need to understand the risk. "It doesn't take much, when the wind is whipping like it is, and things are as dry and there's as much fuel as there is, all you need is a spark to get something huge going. And you can be held liable, and probably will be held liable, for any damages that occur if you start a fire that involves homes and structures. It's not us; it's the court system that will bring those charges against you. And the insurance companies that underwrite all those structures will come after you, too. The end result of that is it could just destroy you financially."

While fireworks may provide New Years entertainment, fire officials say it's not worth the risk. If you're caught illegally shooting fireworks inside Tulsa's city limits, fines range from $220 to as much as $500, plus court costs.

You could also do jail time. If you cause a fire, the financial liability is much higher, with up to 7 years in prison, if a firefighter is injured as a result.