Beaufort News

On land and sea, law enforcement prepares for 4th of July

Fireworks are prohibited throughout Beaufort County without a permit.
Fireworks are prohibited throughout Beaufort County without a permit. Staff illustration

As residents and visitors plan for a night of fireworks and festivities Friday, local law enforcement officers have a different goal: Keeping things quiet.

For the past two years, no one has been cited for setting off fireworks without a permit -- a practice that's banned across Beaufort County -- according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, Bluffton Police Department and Beaufort Police Department.

With safety in mind, officers hope to keep it that way.

Deputies and police say they will increase enforcement over the holiday, both on land and water. They will be watching for illegal fireworks, disorderly conduct and alcohol violations.

Each year, the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division gets a few calls about people trying their hand at pyrotechnics, Battalion Chief Kevin Osterstock said.

"People do go out to the beach and cause a ruckus," he said.

While Osterstock said no one has been injured in the private light shows in recent years, the fireworks are dangerous in other ways.

"The dunes are very fragile. They're also very flammable," he said. "When we lose the vegetation, the dunes erode and we lose our way of protecting our coastline."

Maj. Joseph Manning of the Bluffton Police Department acknowledged some people will still try to celebrate with fireworks. He said safety is the department's main concern and urged parents to supervise children at all times.

"We ask people to be smart when dealing with fireworks of any kind," he said. "Of course, we expect an increase in noise complaints, and we will respond accordingly."

Fireworks are also banned on the county's waters, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh. Brett Witt, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said boaters who decide to break the fireworks rules should make sure they have a fire extinguisher aboard and be mindful of wildlife and other vessels.

OTHER ENFORCEMENT EFFORTS

Between 10 a.m. and noon, boaters can take advantage of a free inspection at the C.C. Haigh Jr. Landing on Pinckney Island. About one in five boats have a violation, and boaters are allowed to fix the problem before launching, without incurring a penalty, Witt said.

"It really runs the gamut, but generally it's the incorrect number of life jackets," he said.

On the water, patrols will be looking for reckless and illegal behavior, such as boaters weaving through congested traffic, harassing wildlife, littering and boating under the influence.

Law enforcement will be watching the roads, as well.

The S.C. Highway Patrol will focus on DUI, speeding and safety-belt violations as part of July's Lower Interstate Fatalities Effort, called Operation LIFE, and drivers will likely see more troopers on congested highways.

"We cannot emphasize enough the importance of designating a driver and planning ahead if alcohol is part of your July 4 plans," patrol Col. Mike Oliver said.

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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