Ware Co. Bans Fireworks; Other Fire Officials Urge Caution

The Memorial Day weekend starts tomorrow and along with it, the barbecues and celebrations; however, one Southeast Georgia community will have to celebrate without the fireworks. This afternoon, Ware County Commissioners voted four to zero to ban fireworks from now through the 4th of July. While the ban only affects Ware County, fire officials, including the Georgia Forestry Commission say right now, people should leave fireworks to the professionals.

Cleo Underwood won't be celebrating Memorial Day with fireworks. The Long County resident almost lost her home and her life when someone across the street started burning trash illegally.

"I got up to get in the shower and saw nothing but yellow," explained Underwood. That yellow was fire that went right up to her windows, melting the skirting and shutters on her home. She says she's lucky she got out.

Had she taken a shower or a nap, she said, "I would have been gone."

"1985 was the last time I remember it being this dry and it was a very bad year," said Jeff Stone, a chief ranger for the Georgia Forestry Commission in Liberty and Long Counties.

Stone said what's happening across Southeast Georgia is a good reason to make the fireworks displays put on by the pros the only ones you'll enjoy for awhile.

"We don't want people's homes destroyed," he said. "We don't want the forests to burn. We don't want smoke on the highways. We don't want people injured."

Even legal fireworks in Georgia, like sparklers, are extremely dangerous. Georgia Forestry officials said one spark could easily set a dry, wooded area on fire.

"The straw and the leaves just crumble," said Stone. "All it takes is one spark to create a roaring fire."

Fire officials said they're not trying to destroy the fun; it's about saving lives and homes from the dangers another wildfire would bring.

Even urban areas, like Savannah, aren't immune to the dangers. Savannah Fire Chief Charles Middleton said smoke from the fires can still be dangerous, especially to the sick and the elderly.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com