JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – It’s hot and dry, and because of drought conditions across Missouri, the state fire marshal is asking residents to avoid using fireworks this Fourth of July.
As drought conditions continue to worsen, the state’s top fire official is warning Missourians, anything that can cause a spark, like a cigarette or firework, have a greater change of starting a fire and because of this dry weather, it can spread twice as fast.
“We are alarmed at the conditions and if people aren’t wise and considerate of that, we could see some dramatic situations,” Missouri State Fire Marshal Tim Bean said.
With nearly all of Missouri currently experiencing a drought, firework safety is even more pivotal this year. Under state statute, Bean does not have the authority to prohibit firearms because of the drought. Instead, county commissioners can decide to put a burn ban into place.
“I have taken many phone calls in the last several days from county commissioners, trying to educate and make sure they are making good decisions for their constituents and their counties,” Bean said. “We’ve seen some professional shoots that communities were going to having canceled for now.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly all of northeast and central Missouri is in an extreme drought. Other parts of the state are experiencing a severe and moderate drought. Bean said the drought monitor map is the biggest tool for putting burn bans into place.
“When they [county commissioners] call us to say they want to put a burn ban in place, I go to the map, click on their county and if it meets that criteria, I say yes, you are in that range, and you can issue your burn ban,” Bean said.
Under state statute only counties in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought are allowed to put burn bans in place.
Even with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees across the state, not all areas have heightened fire risk, like southwest Missouri.
“We do have sections of our state that fortunately have had rain,” Bean said.
Meanwhile, where it’s dry, Bean expects more counties to issue burn bans and postpone firework shows in the coming days.
“We definitely would support that,” Bean said. “Protect your community and make those good decisions like that, airing on the side of safety. We really want people to educate themselves about their particular area and what the conditions are.”
Missouri’s Division of Fire Safety says last year there were more than 320 people who went to the hospital because of injuries related to fireworks. Of that, 292 people were treated in emergency rooms and released, and 32 people were admitted to the hospital. More than 75% of those injuries occurred from June 21 to July 11.
That’s why Bean recommends leaving the fireworks to the professionals.
If you do go buy fireworks, Bean wants Missourians to make sure the business has a permit from the state fire marshal’s office. Firework sales at licensed seasonal retails are legal from June 20 until July 10.
Here are some safety tips from the state fire marshal’s office:
- Confirm fireworks are legal where you live; only purchase fireworks from licensed retailers
- Only use fireworks in a large open space that is clear of flammable materials. Do not light fireworks in areas where a spark could ignite dry grass, leaves, or other flammable materials
- Always have a garden hose or a bucket of water nearby in case of a fire
- Always keep young children away from fireworks; if teens are permitted to handle fireworks, they should be closely supervised by an adult; always wear eye protection
- Only light fireworks one at a time; never try to re-light fireworks that have malfunctioned
- Dispose of fireworks by soaking them in water and leaving them in a trash can
- Never shoot fireworks off from a glass jar or container
- Never use fireworks while consuming alcohol
- Never store fireworks from season to season