Before fireworks go off, new laws are on the books

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The ads are everywhere and so are the road side stands selling fireworks, but firefighters say it can come with dangers, all while new laws are on the books.

"They look very innocent," said Captain Salvador Melendez with Louisville Fire & Rescue.

But looks are deceiving, Capt. Melendez says. Take a cannon launcher for example:  inside the fun-looking device, a danger is lurking. It's supposed to be good for five launches, but it never got the chance to get one up.

"This one broke, by just sitting this on the ground; this has never been used so you have to look at the quality of how things are made, this is very poor quality and I shouldn't be able to crush this with two fingers," Captain Melendez demonstrated.

Tamer fireworks, like sparklers also have dangers. They may give an intense light show, but their heat is even more intense.

"Upwards of 1,200 degrees so to put it in context, you typically bake a cake at 350 degrees water boils at 212 degrees," Captain Melendez said.

Local fire officials responded to dozens of runs due to fireworks last year. In fact, there were roughly 32,000 fires nationwide in the 2010 Independence Day period. While leaving it to the professionals is always best, there are tips if you decide to put on your own show.

"Make sure that you're not using fireworks around a dry area; dry grass, which this time of year will be hard to do as we've had some dry weather," Captain Melendez said.

Also, keep a container of water close by, don't light fireworks while having alcohol, and if it doesn't go off properly the first time, throw it away!

New laws are also on the books this year in Kentucky. Bottle rockets, roman candles, and fire crackers are now actually legal in the Commonwealth; but, a 200 foot distance between the fireworks and another person, house, or vehicle is required.

For the first time citizens in Louisville Metro can legally buy, sell and set off their very own bottle rockets with a red glare and some bombs bursting in air for Independence Day. It's got some folks excited, others making lots of cash and some fire officials waiting for it to be over.

The Holloway family was looking to get a big bang for their buck this 4th of July in Metro Louisville. Nine-year-old Cullen Holloway wanted ones that fly up in the air and explode. The louder, the better. His mom said anything with a big boom. The sale of exploding fireworks will be something new this year, but it didn't come without a lot of noise from local fire officials.

"There was probably a good 90 minute debate on the pros and cons, said Mike Allendorf, fire marshal of the Okolona Fire District. "Anything you can buy in Tennessee and Indiana is now to be sold in Louisville Metro."

Yes you can buy it, but do you know what you can do with it? You can be arrested or fined if you do not follow all the rules, so what are they? Allendorf said that is the million dollar question.

"The new state law says you cannot set off a firework within 200 feet of a structure, a car, a person or an animal," said Allendorf.

Allendorf does not believe there is a neighborhood in the Metro with an empty 200 feet of land. To be in compliance with the law, that means you must also be able to light the firework and run approximately 66 yards - that's two-thirds of a football field - before that firework goes off.

"We don't have enough officers or fire officials to cite everybody under the 200 foot rule," Allendorf said.

Because each local fire district can make its own rule, Allendorf said you may want to check with your local fire officials to see if they have passed something locally in your area. There is one thing Allendorf know for sure - injuries and fires because of fireworks will escalate.

"We anticipate a rise because these fireworks that were previously outlawed are now easily obtainable here in the Metro," said Allendorf.

All of this could change the beginning of November. The fire officials and the Louisville Metro Council will actually look at the state law again. At that time, they could change it or decide to keep it the same.

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