Fire officials stress fireworks safety on July 4

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJuly 2, 2012 

  • Local fireworks displays

  • Independence Day Celebration at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island: 6:30-10 p.m. Wednesday, Peatross Parade Deck, 283 Boulevard De France, Parris Island. 843-228-3410.

  • Fireworks at Harbour Town: 5 p.m. Wednesday, Harbour Town, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island. Fireworks will be launched at dusk over Calibogue Sound. 843-842-1979.

  • Fireworks over Skull Creek: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks, 1 Hudson Road, Hilton Head Island. Free parking and shuttle service from the Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club on Gumtree Road starting at 5:30 p.m. 843-681-2772, extension 100.

  • HarbourFest: 6:30 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Shelter Cove Harbour, Hilton Head Island. Patriotic selections performed by Shannon Tanner. The fireworks display will begin after dusk. 800-827-3006.

  • Town of Port Royal Fourth of July Celebration: 5-10:30 p.m. Wednesday, The Sands, Port Royal. The fireworks shows on Parris Island and in Port Royal will be visible from The Sands. 843-522-9923

Local fire officials hope a mid-week July 4 holiday lessens the chances of property damage and injuries caused by fireworks.

Last year, 141 fireworks-related fires, resulting in more than $75,000 in property damage, were reported across South Carolina, according to the S.C. Fire Marshal's Office.

Though none of those mishaps resulted in injuries, Beaufort County fire officials say incidents caused by the misuse of fireworks can end with trips to hospitals or regional burn units.

"Independence Day brings family gatherings, cookouts, day trips to the beach, and many more great moments for all Americans, (but) it also brings some unwanted and downright dangerous moments for some, as fireworks intended to add spirit to our celebrations cause burns, injuries or worse," said Lee Levesque, spokesman for the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District.

Nationally, fireworks caused about 5,500 fires, eight deaths, 60 injuries and $36 million in property damage last year, according to the National Fire Prevention Association.

Levesque said it is illegal to discharge fireworks in the unincorporated parts of Beaufort County without a permit from the S.C. Department of Labor, License and Regulation.

"It is simply a matter safety and prevention, as we are all familiar with the wildfires that are currently burning out west; it only takes a spark," Levesque said.

Similar ordinances prohibit residents in the city of Beaufort, towns of Port Royal, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island from setting off fireworks without a permit. Violating these ordinances can bring fines up to $500.

Meanwhile, falling gas prices and the mid-week holiday are expected to boost traffic on state roads, according to AAA Carolinas.

"We predict slightly more travelers will combine Thursday and Friday as part of their holiday weekend in order to enjoy Independence Day celebration activities, such as Wednesday night fireworks, encouraging travelers to stay at their destination overnight," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas in a news release.

South Carolina continues to have the cheapest average gasoline prices in the nation, at $2.98 a gallon, the travel club said.

Local travelers are unlikely to notice more law-enforcement officers on Beaufort County roads Wednesday.

Officials from Beaufort and Bluffton police departments and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said they have no special enforcement plans or DUI checkpoints, although a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said extra deputies will be on patrol to handle traffic near public fireworks displays on Hilton Head Island.

Port Royal Police Chief Alan Beach said extra officers would be on patrol Wednesday and cracking down on those who park on the McTeer Bridge or the Russell Bell Bridge to get a better view of the fireworks in Port Royal and on Parris Island.

For fireworks safety tips, click here.

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