4th of July Fireworks: Tampa Bay Customers like fireworks deals, safety officials don't

5:13 PM, Jul 4, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Customers like fireworks deals, safety officials don't

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South Tampa, Florida -- Bay area fire rescue workers have some added concerns this year when it comes to firework safety.

Some of that has to do with the calendar. Some it has to do with the weather.

When the July 4th holiday falls on a weekend, a Monday or a Friday, people generally set their fireworks off on those days and that's it, say fire officials. But this year, the fourth falls on a Wednesday.

That's raised concern that we'll see added days of fireworks being set off. And with that, comes an increased risk of injury.

For Kelly Patterson of St. Petersburg, setting off 4th of July fireworks is a family tradition. Sure it's fun for the adults, but it's "for the kids, really. They love it!" says the mother of four.

Of course, firefighters would prefer Kelly and others leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, but if you insist on going independent on this Independence Day, they offer some safety suggestions for families.

First, adult supervision is key. The rate of firework injuries doubles among kids ages 5 to 14.

Tampa Fire Rescue's Debra Sue Warshefski says "about 80 percent of the people that go to the emergency room that day basically have firework related injuries."

Also, try to limit your display to less-dangerous, family-friendly effects. Jason Downard, operating the USA Fireworks stand on South Dale Mabry, even places them in a specific section.

"I have a 2-year-old granddaughter," says Downard, "and I would hate to see something happen to her, so I treat everyone else like I'd want to treat my own family."

Also, don't assume that sparklers are safe for kids. Fire rescue workers get more calls about sparkler-related injuries than any other kind of injury, because sparklers burn hotter than wood, even glass.

The 1,200 degree molten metal - magnesium, sometimes flies off, or drips onto kids' feet.

"And a lot of time they're running around in sandals and opened-toe shoes, flip-flops, things like that and we get little burns on their feet all the time," says St. Petersburg Fire Rescue's Lt. Joel Granada.

Also, never try to re-light a firework if it doesn't ignite the first time. Keep your distance. Stay sober. And have plenty of water nearby to douse those duds or deal with the unexpected, says Granada.

"We recommend that you wear eye protection. That you have a bucket of water handy, maybe a hose line ready to go."

There's also a lot of concern among fire officials this year about the weather. With all the rain we had this past couple of weeks, some of the fireworks may have gotten wet, they say, and that increases the potential for what may appear to be duds.

That's often when injuries happen, as people go to grab what they think is a dead firework - and instead it goes off.

Don't take a chance. If it doesn't work the first time, says Granada, douse it and throw it out.

Fire officials also are not big fans of the deals out there this year. When it comes to "buy one get one free" deals, customers probably see it as twice the fun. But fire officials see it as twice the risk.

At the drug store, deals are often buy one get one half off. At the supermarket, they're even buy one get one free.

But when it comes to fireworks, BOGO economics gets taken to a whole new level.

"Buy one get five free. I mean, I'm a sucker for a deal, what can I say?" said customer Steve Howard, scooping up deals in South Tampa.

This year, firework freebies are often multiples for your money. Buy one-get-one, three, even five or more for free.

"At least this way for a couple of bucks a family can still celebrate the most important holiday for the greatest nation that was ever formed," says Howard.

"I think it's a great deal. We'll definitely end up with more fireworks than we were planning on having when we came here," said Patterson.

The pyrotechnic pricing defies the mold of modern economics. Which begs the question, why don't they just price the stuff lower?

Downard says there's a good reason. They don't want folks to buy just one.

"We're based out of Indiana," he says, "Whatever's left over they have to pay to ship back. So if we do a buy one get five free, it does better than just lowering the price on one."

Of course, fire officials would rather see fewer fireworks out there than more. Admittedly, they're not big fans of the pyro-pricing model.

"It's interesting that something that can do such harm is packaged in that way, but you know, we just have to educate the public and keep them as safe as we can," says Warshefski. 

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