Drought and Fireworks Don't Mix

It's a sound as American as apple pie. Firecrackers exploding throughout the nation.

But the other sound connected to the Fourth of July is stands cashing in on folks love of fireworks. "We get hundreds of people coming in here," said Vernita Robinson of Fireworks Superstore.

Fireworks Superstore in Hardeeville makes more than $300,000 from Independence Day sales alone.

Those looking for more bang for their buck walk in and load up on the biggest and baddest blasts they can find. Sometimes at the expense of safety "They are coming in and using it as a game and its too harmful because someone can really get hurt if you misuse it," explains Robinson.

"You can't put them around grass, you can't put them around anything flammable," said Georgia Fire and Insurance commissioner John Oxendine. "In these dry conditions they can start a major forest fire."

Drought conditions mean fireworks are more dangerous than usual. What was once a simple roman candle could now fall in the dry grass and ignite a major fire. "While any firework can start a fire, the illegal ones have higher gunpowder, they shoot off to a distance," explains Oxendine. "You can have a bottle rocket go into a pine tree or pine straw and start a fire."

While the ones that go in the air or blow up may look like more fun, in Georgia, sparklers are the only things that are legal. But even in South Carolina where most fireworks are legal, safety comes first.

Warning labels adorn each batch of hot items, and a cartoon character makes his point. You can still enjoy the holiday with a few colorful toys, and be safe.

Any fireworks that go up in the air or blow up are illegal in Georgia. That leaves just smoke bombs, snakes and sparklers as acceptable fireworks. Most are legal in South Carolina, but only up to a certain blast capacity. M-60's and M-80's have been banned, and bottle rockets aren't allowed in the state.

The drought problem is so bad that some areas of Georgia have even cancelled their city or community wide fireworks displays and those were being done by professionals.

Reported by: Andrew Davis, andrewdavis@wtoc.com