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October 25, 2014

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Firefighters worry as fireworks booths open

Fireworks booths open this morning and fire officials worry that the flying sparks that come with the Fourth of July aren't far behind.

Since fireworks fueled 40 blazes and $72,000 in property damage last year in Clark County, safety officials are promoting the correct use of "Safe n Sane" fireworks hoping to reduce accidents. Most fireworks-related fires are small, Bob Leinbach, spokesman for the Clark County Fire Department said.

"People who buy illegal fireworks put the lives of their neighbors in danger -- they put their own lives in danger," Leinbach said.

The difference between legal and illegal fireworks is simple: legal fireworks don't explode or rocket. That means that fire crackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and sky missiles aren't allowed.

Only those that don't explode, labeled "Safe 'n' Sane," are sold legally in Clark County, but the illegal types can be purchased at the Moapa Paiute Reservation north of Las Vegas and over the county line in Pahrump. It is illegal to transport them off the reservation or into Clark County.

"The majority of fires are started by non-Safe n Sane fireworks," Alonzo Stephens, a local representative for TNT Fireworks, said.

Stephens said that illegal fireworks are often brought into the county and have become a big problem around the Fourth of July.

"As many fireworks come from Pahrump and Moapa as are sold in the entire valley," he said.

Even legal fireworks are strictly regulated. "Safe n Sane" fireworks can't be used on county property, at schools, in parks or on federal land.

Legal fireworks can only be sold from approved booths June 28 through July 4. All fireworks purchased must be used, Leinbach said, as it is illegal to possess or ignite them before or after those dates, and children under 16 can't buy their own fireworks.

Booths have to be run by a minimum number of approved operators, depending on the structure's size. All operators must be members of a nonprofit organization.

Dave Bradshaw, Nevada operations manager for Phantom Fireworks, selects nonprofit groups to run fireworks booths by confirming their registration as a nonprofit organization and by checking the group's background and manpower availability. Most groups return year after year, he said.

Stephens said many nonprofit groups make fireworks sales their only fund-raiser because the booths are profitable enough to last an entire year.

"It is the best fund raiser out there," he said.

The fireworks themselves are tested for safety, Leinbach said. First, the fire department tests samples of each type. If the fireworks malfunction, the manufacturer must rework and resubmit the product. If the sample still doesn't work correctly, that type of firework cannot be sold that year.

Only one person was injured by fireworks around last July 4th in Clark County, and no one in the area has ever been killed by fireworks accidents, Leinbach said.

To publicize safe ways to use fireworks, booths distribute brochures to patrons and post warning signs on their walls.

The fire department has some suggestions for preparation, use and clean-up of fireworks:

For more information, call (702) 229-0145 or visit www.lasvegasfire.org.

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