To some people, fireworks on the Fourth of July are as American as apple pie and baseball.

To some people, celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, without the smell of cordite in the air and the lights of exploding mortar rounds would be nothing less than sacrilege.

Unfortunately for those people, the list of places in Ellis County they can still celebrate the birth of their country by blowing up amusements made in China is growing ever shorter.

For a number of years now, the city of Waxahachie has enforced an ordinance prohibiting the possession or discharge of fireworks (incidenary devices) within its city limits, an ordinance enforced by the Waxahachie Police Department and Fire Marshal Dennis Crecelius.

Additionally, it is illegal to discharge fireworks on or from a state-owned road, such as Interstate 35E, U.S. Highway 77 or any of the Farm-to-Market roads, a law that will be enforced by the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, ECSO Capt. Dennis Brearley said.

To be sufficiently prepared for the holiday, the WPD and ECSO will have additional units on the streets, Brearley and WPD spokesman Wes Winn said.

However, in addition to watching out for fireworks, additional ECSO units also will be standing ready to respond to reports of criminal trespassing, the captain added.

Revelers have caused considerable amounts of damage to crops in fields around the county through the years, local farmer Scott Averhoff said.

“It’s just unbelievable how much wheat we’ve lost just before harvest to four-wheel-drive trucks and ATVs,” he says, calling the destruction of the crops “a total disregard for private property rights and damaging our livelihood.”

Violating the city’s ordinance against the possession or discharge of fireworks and criminal trespassing are both class C misdemeanors, punishable by fines up to $500.

Discharging fireworks on a public road is a class C misdemeanor, Ellis County’s Jim Pharr said, noting that violators could also be cited for littering or even reckless mischief if any damage is caused.

Fireworks Safety

A fireworks display at home may sound like a fun way to celebrate Independence Day, but amateur shows, including the backyard variety, can be dangerous and vision-threatening, according to Dr. Preston Blomquist, associate professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“We have seen people lose vision and lose eyes,” he said, adding that bottle rockets tend to cause most of the injuries. “The rockets fly erratically, and the bottles or cans used to launch the rockets can explode, creating shrapnel.”

In addition to showering spectators with glass and metal fragments, bottle rockets can also strike the eye directly. Anyone who suffers a fireworks-related eye injury should immediately go to a hospital emergency room.

There are about 11,000 fireworks-related injuries every year, with almost 2,200 of those affecting the eyes. Consumer fireworks are responsible for one-third of all eye injuries.

“Go watch a professional fireworks event; don’t do this at home,” Blomquist said.

Crecelius agrees.

“The best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit a public, professional fireworks display,” Crecelius said, saying that if residents want to discharge fireworks, however, they should know and obey the following fire safety precautions to “keep everyone safe during the July 4th holiday.”

The precautions are:

Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass. Always have a water source available or a fire extinguisher nearby. Do not wear loose-fitting clothes while shooting fireworks. Stand back several feet from lit fireworks. If fireworks fail to detonate, do not stand above them to investigate. Submerge the device in water as safely as possible, and then dispose of it. Always read the directions and warning labels, and follow them accordingly. Supervise small children around fireworks at all times.

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