Ocean County Press Release

THE THUNDERING boom of fireworks on the Fourth of July is a tradition that dates back to the founding of our nation.

But to safely enjoy the noise and kaleidoscope of colors, leave the fireworks to the professionals and enjoy one or more of the many public displays scheduled for the long holiday weekend.

"It is illegal to purchase, possess and use fireworks in New Jersey unless you are a licensed professional staging a show," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.

According to federal statistics, fireworks injure nearly 10,000 people every year throughout the United States. The vast majority of those injuries occur during the two weeks leading up to and following July 4th.

"If you attempt to use these illegal devices, you are going to get hurt," Vicari warned.

Vicari said he is especially concerned that many types of fireworks - freely for sale in some other states but illegal in New Jersey - are marketed to children.

While they look like toys, wrapped in colorful paper with names like Conehead, Funky Fish and Rambo Kid, they are anything but.

"The explosive power of these devices is astounding," Vicari said. "Under those enticing wrappings are dangerous and volatile explosives and projectiles capable of maiming and killing. Even a sparkler burns at nearly 1,000 degrees."

Possession of fireworks is a disorderly persons offense, but possession with the intent to sell is a fourth-degree offense, with a possible maximum penalty of 18 months imprisonment and fines up to $10,000.

Unfortunately, many types of fireworks can be easily purchased in other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania.

"Do not travel out of state and buy fireworks," said Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety.

"It may be legal to buy them, but it is illegal to bring them back across state lines and use them in New Jersey."

Kelly said local police departments will be on the lookout for illegal fireworks in the days and weeks leading up to Independence Day.

Fireworks are a danger both to users and those who may be close by.

"When you light that fuse, you never know what is going to happen," Kelly said. "A rocket can fly out of control and strike a child or land on a roof and start a fire."

Most fireworks are made in China and many times the fuses are unreliable, he said.

Fireworks-related injuries can range from severe burns to even disfigurement.

"We've seen reports across the country of people who have blown off their fingers or suffered disfiguring injuries because the seemingly harmless firecracker they were holding suddenly exploded in their hand or near their face," said Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Health Department.

Vicari, liaison to tourism, said there will be numerous opportunities to enjoy fireworks safely this Independence Day.

"Many of our towns will be hosting shows throughout the weekend," Vicari said.

A listing of professional fireworks displays is posted on the county's newly updated tourism website at www.oceancountytourism.com.

Even if you do decide to attend a professional show, Vicari had one final word of warning: leave the pets at home.
"Many dogs and other animals are terrified of the loud noises made by fireworks," he said.

Vicari said the Humane Society of the United States has released guidelines on how to protect animals during the holiday weekend:
" Resist the urge to take your pet to fireworks displays.
" Do not leave your pet in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your pet can suffer serious health effects-even death-in a few short minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but they do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.
" Keep your pets inside at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you've removed any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him company while you're attending Fourth of July picnics, parades, and other celebrations.
" If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like thunder, consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks displays.
" Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death.
" Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at-large should be taken to the local animal shelter, where they will have the best chance of being reunited with their owners.

"By following these simple rules we make sure the holiday weekend is enjoyable for both our families and our pets," Vicari said.

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