On this Fourth of July weekend, you and your family will likely be gathering wood, lighting up the grill and buying handfuls of sparklers. But there are several other important things you should be including on this holiday: safety recommendations.
Although many of them might seem like common sense, Richard Keyworth — a retired fire officer with more than four decades of service — told TheBlaze, "there is no class in school called common sense 101."
That's code for: it's still important to brush up on fire safety tips.
Keyworth, who also authored the book "Fires: Accidental or Arson?", gave us several pointers for safety around fireworks, bonfires and grills this summer holiday season.
Fireworks: 'These Are Actually Bombs'
Commercial and other large fireworks, depending on the state, might be illegal. Regardless, Keyworth said these colorful explosives are for professionals.
"Commercial fireworks in a lot of states now require a blaster's license," Keyworth said. "These are actually bombs."
In this Friday, June, 28, 2013, photo, Pyro City employee Zach Gushing carries a jumbo box of aerial and ground fireworks at the retail store, in Winslow, Maine. Sales at Maine s fireworks stores have far surpassed initial projections when fireworks became legal last year for the first time in 63 years. (Photo: AP/Robert F. Bukaty)
While most professional fireworks are launched at a safe distance via an electronic switch, Keyworth said back in the day when he would help put on firework shows "we used to spin around, turn our backs to them" and by the end of the night there were holes in their shirts.
"These things are for professional use only," he said.
But if you are using a larger firework, Keyworth advised special caution if it doesn't go up right away.
"If they don't go off, do not look at it, do not go over to it, do not poke it, etc.," he said, recalling a tragic story of a man's head being in the way when he peered down the tube of a firework that was only just late to go up. Then he had it explode in his face. It didn't end well.
In this Friday, June, 28, 2013, photo, Bricks of 500 firecrackers sell for $11.99 at a Pyro City retail store, in Winslow, Maine. Sales at Maine s fireworks stores have far surpassed initial projections when fireworks became legal last year for the first time in 63 years. (Photo: AP/Robert F. Bukaty)
Even smaller fireworks and Fourth of July staples like sparklers and bottle rockets have their dangers. Bottle rockets when shot in the wrong direction can injure bystanders, and sparklers, even when done sparkling, Keyworth said, can be hot enough to burn fingers. Check out this infographic for even more firework safety information:
First, make sure there is no combustible material within 20 feet of the fire pit or fire bowl — this includes not being on a wooden deck, according to Keyworth.
As an extra precaution, using a non-flammable material around the fire could even help prevent fire spread. Jeff Bisgrove, the founder and CEO of Colored Shell Mulch, spent six years developing a non-wood alternative to mulch with paint manufacturer Sherwin Williams after a cigar snuffed out in his own wood mulch ended up setting fire to his house.
Bisgrove told TheBlaze creating a perimeter with this natural shell product around a fire pit, or even as a replacement to wood mulch in flower beds around a home, can help create a fire retardant area.
This might look like traditional red colored mulch, but it's actually a colored shell product that is non-flammable. It can be used around home perimeters, in flower beds and even around bonfires as a safety precaution. (Photo: ColoredShells.com)
Colored Shell Mulch isn't flammable or toxic and allows water to flow right through to the ground while leaves and other debris can easily be blown off, Bisgrove explained.
Bisgrove said during the firework season, using Colored Shell around a launch area could be a preventative measure as well.
"Embers from a firework could be just as powerful as that cigar," he said, noting how he didn't even notice right away that the cigar he snuffed had lit a fire in his then wood mulch because it burned slowly from the underneath layer upward.
If you'll be roasting hot dogs or marshmallows over an open flame, Keyworth said to be sure the sticks are of an adequate length with a heat-proof grip. Loose clothing should be avoided around fires.
BBQs: 'Move the Can Away'
On charcoal grills, Keyworth emphasized the importance of not spraying lighter fluid on lit coals, warning that a flame could rush up to the bottle itself.
"Put the coals in the center. Then put the fluid on. Move the can away. Then light it," Keyworth said. "Don't spray the can into a flame." Or even just hot coals for that matter.
Propane grills, according to FEMA, should have gas tanks checked for leaks before use. This can be done pouring a slightly soapy solution over the hose connecting it to the grill. Any leaks will be indicated by the presence of bubbles popping on the hose.
Other common sense tips still worth mentioning from the safety and security company SDA Security: clean grills (after they're cool) after each use to avoid the build up of fats and always use gas and charcoal grills outside.
In all situations involving fire or fireworks this holiday season, it's also advisable to have a fire extinguisher on hand just in case.
Front page image via Shutterstock.
This story was altered slightly from its original repost.