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Dry weather sparks concern over fireworks

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COURTESY OF THE U.S. ARMY VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
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By Kendra Rhonemus

With no rain in the immediate forecast, State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson warned Hoosiers on Tuesday about the dangers of lighting fireworks during this 4th of July season and throwing burning cigarettes out of car windows.

Drought conditions have caused grasses and forests to become dry at an alarming rate, which has essentially lined roads, yards and campgrounds with kindling for fires.

State officials said the conditions are the worst Indiana has experienced in more than 20 years.

Already, two-thirds of Indiana's counties have issued burn bans and many have placed restrictions on the use of fireworks because the dry weather increases the threat of grass fires.

"Hoosiers are ultimately responsible for knowing what local fireworks restrictions are in place and are liable for any damage or injuries caused by the use of fireworks or improperly discarded lit cigarettes," Greeson said.

When tossed from a moving car, burning cigarettes remain warm enough to quickly start a fire in dry grass. Any burning objects thrown out of vehicles can result in a fine of up to $10,000.

State law currently allows individuals to use fireworks only on private property with the permission of the owner or in areas specifically designated for fireworks. But officials - and even those who sell fireworks - say users should be careful.

"Just stay clear, don't light a bunch of stuff right there in the grass or where there's trees right above you," Donny Young said, the owner of Donny's Boom Boom Shop on Madison Avenue in Indianapolis. "If it's a big concern just stay with something that's not gonna blow up and explode all over the place and take a bigger percentage chance of starting a fire."

Tips to avoid starting a fire

Backyard fires:

-Store firewood and all other combustibles away from your home.

-It is advisable to avoid burning trash during dry weather, but if you must, and if permissible, burn trash in a safe incinerator that includes: heavy mesh screen with holes not much longer than 1/4 inch, and a metal barrel in good condition.

-Have a hose nearby to help put out the fire if it gets out of control.

Outdoor cooking:

-Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup.

-Never leave an outdoor charcoal or gas grill unattended.

-The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Avoid placing the grill on dry grass or leaves.

-When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Vehicles:

-Never park your vehicle on dry grass or leaves.

-Avoid driving through tall grass.

-Make sure spark arresters on the internal combustion engines of off road vehicles are clean.

Tobacco products:

-Never throw a lighted cigarette out the window of a vehicle.

-Never walk off and leave a burning cigarette.

-Use ashtrays.

Fireworks:

-Store fireworks in a cool dry area.

-When using fireworks, always have a fire extinguisher, water supply, hose, or bucket of water nearby.

-Be cautious when lighting fireworks when it is windy.

-If a burn ban is in effect for your area, call your local fire department to inquire about what activities are included in the restriction. In some areas, a burn ban may restrict the use of fireworks.

-If fireworks do ignite a fire, contact your local fire department or 911 immediately. Do not attempt to extinguish a large fire by yourself.

Equipment:

-Perform proper maintenance on agriculture equipment to prevent overheating.

-Grease trailer wheels, check tires, and ensure safety chains are not touching the ground.

-Be careful with gas lanterns, barbeques, gas stoves and anything that can be a source of ignition for a wildfire.

-Remember, sparks from chainsaws, welding torches and other equipment can cause wildfires.

Source: Indiana Department of Homeland Security

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