A small grass fire that started this morning by a trio of teenage boys underscores the real dangers posed when kids – and adults – play with fireworks.
"It's a serious time of year and will only get worse as it goes on, but what exacerbates it is the use of fireworks," said Roseville Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Carman.
Today's fire sparked around 10 a.m. near Petruchio Way, off Secret Ravine Pathway, and burned about an acre of dry grass and brush, he said. The boys, between ages 13 and 15, were initially lighting fireworks in the street, but after neighbors complained, moved to a bike trail, where things got messy.
"The kids were trying to put it out themselves, but it was well out of their capability," Carman said, noting that the fire department's efforts were delayed because the emergency call wasn't immediately made.
The days surrounding July Fourth are notoriously busy for fire departments, and their messages of safety are consistent. Carmen recommends the following:
Only use the "Safe and Sane" fireworks that are approved by the state fire marshall. "Those are the ones that are safe for a variety of reasons – they don't fly through the air or explode," he said. Also, the state fire marshall has a high level of quality assurance, Carmen said, so make sure it's approved by the agency.
Use fireworks in the prescribed manner. Don't hold them in your hand while the fuse is burning, Carmen said, and always be sure there's an adult, along with a hose and bucket nearby in case. And be aware of your surroundings – don't set any below low-hanging trees or by dry vegetation. "They really should be, preferably, on a concrete driveway or in the street – somewhere where there's no combustables around," he said.
If a fire starts, call 911 immediately. And don't try to put the fire out yourself Carmen said. "Most importantly give us a call as soon as you can, so we can stop the fire while it's small," he said.
Aside from fires, fireworks can cause minor to major burns to the face and hands. Oftentimes people don't heed the warning labels' direction to set the fireworks on the ground to light and move away, Carmen said.
"People stay too close, and it detonates, or the profile of the show is in the range where they're getting sprayed with flammable materials," he said. "People don't realize that even firecrackers have enough of a detonation associated that they'll do significant damage to your hands."
While today's fire isn't considered major, given the right circumstances, it could have been worse. "Had that been later in the day, when huimidity falls and winds pick up, it's likely it would have damaged vehicles or structures as a result of the fire," Carmen said.
And this summer is ripe for disaster, given all the dry grass and low moisture content. "We have a lot of buildup of fuels and very low fuel moisture content," he said. "Even the larger brush that normally this time of year would have enough moisture, we're already seeing complete burning of those fuels."