Ocean County Press Release

TOMS RIVER – As Ocean County prepares for the Fourth of July, fireworks are once again a hot topic for the festivities celebrating the founding of our nation.

Despite the temptation, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is asking parents to be extremely cautious with store-bought fireworks and instead celebrate the holiday by attending one of the many professional fireworks displays scheduled around the county.

"While they may be legal, sparklers and fireworks that are now available at many local stores are still dangerous," Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said. "Even a sparkler burns at more than 1,000 degrees and can lead to serious injury."

According to federal statistics, fireworks injure more than 12,000 people every year throughout the United States. The vast majority of those injuries occur during the two weeks leading up to and following July 4.

"We have seen reports across the country of people who have seriously hurt themselves because the seemingly harmless firecracker they were holding suddenly exploded in their hand or near their face," Vicari said.

While sparklers, small smoke bombs and party poppers may now be sold and used in the state, other fireworks such as firecrackers and rockets remain illegal.

"Many types of fireworks look like toys and are marketed towards children, when they are anything but for kids," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines. "Be wise and do not travel out of state and buy fireworks that are otherwise unavailable in New Jersey."

Possession of illegal fireworks by anyone but a licensed professional 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.

"If you attempt to use these illegal devices, you are going to get hurt," said Freeholder Deputy Director John P. Kelly, who is also Director of Law and Public Safety. "When you light that fuse, you never know what is going to happen. 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.

"Don't risk injury to yourself or others," Kelly said. "Let's make sure everyone enjoys a safe and happy Fourth of July."

In addition, with many towns in Ocean County hosting shows during the holiday weekend, Vicari warned that residents should leave their pets at home.

"Many dogs and other animals are terrified of the loud noises made by fireworks," 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 have 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 a normal volume to keep them company while you are 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 4 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 would not 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 is enjoyable for both our family and our pets," Vicari said.

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

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