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Local officials call for firework safety over holiday weekend

Dustin Suchy arranges fireworks Monday under a tent in the Cub Foods parking lot in Willmar. As the Fourth of July approaches, officials are again warning people to practice safety when using or dealing with fireworks. Some 7,000 people across the United States suffered fireworks-related injuries last year. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

With firework season now open in the run up to the Independence Day festivities Saturday, local police and firefighters are advising people to stay safe, reasonably quiet and within the law. Officer Marilee Dorn with the Willmar Police Department was quick to point out that in Minnesota any firework that "blows up or flies" is illegal. A few people have already been cited for violations, she said.

Even legal fireworks, which in Minnesota include sparklers, snakes, ground spinners and spark cones, can be dangerous, Dorn said, especially in the hands of a child -- or someone incapacitated to a childlike state.

"Alcohol and pyrotechnics do not mix well," she said.

"Unfortunately, they are mixed often."

Last year, there were an estimated 7,000 fireworks-related injuries treated in hospitals nationwide, according to the Consumer Products Safety Division. That number is likely low, said Dorn, compared to the actual number of injuries.

"A lot of people will treat the minor injuries themselves," she said.

Dorn advised that people stay considerate of their neighbors, who may not share the spirit of the Fourth when loud displays go off in the wee hours of the morning.

Firefighters will be on call on Saturday night, said Willmar Fire Chief Marv Calvin. Historically, grass fires have been the biggest problem with fireworks, he said, although last year the department responded to a garage fire. Calvin advised against using any fireworks at all. Shows put on by professionals throughout the area would be a more community minded and entertaining alternative, he said.

"Your communities are spending a lot of money on these, and you should go and support your community," he said.

Calvin said that if people feel compelled to light fireworks of their own, they should make sure they are legal, used according to the recommendations on the packages, and lit on private property in an open space.