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July Fourth Celebrations Spark Safety Concerns

Sky lanterns such as this one are illegal to use by Tennesseans unless they have a commercial license to set off fireworks. (Bhavishya Goel/Flickr)
Sky lanterns such as this one are illegal to use by Tennesseans unless they have a commercial license to set off fireworks. (Bhavishya Goel/Flickr)
July 1, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This weekend, the rumble and boom of celebratory fireworks will be heard across the state as communities celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. But the State Fire Marshal's office is asking Tennesseans to leave it to the experts this holiday.

Kevin Walters, communications director, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, points out that even the smallest of explosives can cause real damage.

"Those seemingly harmless bottle rockets, and sparklers and firecrackers, can cause real-world damage and real-world consequences that – unfortunately, in some cases – follow people for the rest of their lives," he warns.

According to the State Fire Marshal, from 2011 to 2015, fire departments in the Volunteer State responded to 644 fireworks-related fires, that caused $1.6 million in property damage.

If you do choose to set off your own fireworks, Walters advises that you be aware of local laws, make sure you're in an open area and have water on hand.

Sky lanterns, which have grown in popularity in recent years after being featured in the Disney movie Tangled, now are against the law in Tennessee. Users must have a professional license to use them.

Walters says local jurisdictions have laws in place, and enforcement will be stepped up in parts of the state this weekend.

"We're not naive; we know people are going to break the law," he acknowledges. "We want people to understand that they are breaking the law. We do not want them to do that, and we want them to understand the health consequences that go along with shooting off fireworks."

A new law passed last year also prohibits flying a drone above an outdoor, ticketed event with more than 100 people, or in the vicinity of a fireworks display site, without the permission of the event operator.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN