234 years ago the Declaration of Independence was signed, allowing the United States to declare independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is celebrated nationwide in the form of parades, picnics, baseball games and political ceremonies. Fireworks are also commonly associated with the holiday, but if you're planning to add some spark to your Fourth of July activities, there's a few things you need to keep in mind.
Nothing says Independence Day like a fireworks display, but before you start playing with pyrotechnics make sure you know the laws.
"All fireworks are illegal within the city limits unless you are a certified pyrotechnician and you have a permit," Susan Redford, an Ector County Judge, said.
You can be fined up to $2,000 just for possession of fireworks within city limits. Why? Because they're dangerous. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 7,000 fireworks-related injuries were treated in the U.S. In 2008. That same year, an estimated 22,500 reported fires were started by fireworks.
"We do have quite a few fires nationwide, and any of those could happen here just as well...with a loss of home, car, property, or injury or death due to fireworks," Alan Kilgore, Fire Inspector with the Midland Fire Department, said.
What about the party poppers that don't require an open flame? Are those also illegal?
"If it actually is ignitable, it is considered a firework. So about the only thing that would not be considered is anything that has the pull string. The poppers and things like that," Redford said.
It may come as a surprise, but sparklers are considered fireworks and should only be used outside of city limits. They burn at high temperatures (anywhere from 1800 to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit) and coming in close contact with them can result in a third degree burn.
"This is something we're giving to our small little children to play with, thinking that they're safer when in reality they're not. They're responsible for 21% of emergency room visits out of firework injuries during this time of year," Kilgore said.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that no one use consumer fireworks. They say if you want to see fireworks...go to a professional show. If you do insist on using them, make sure you're in an area without dry grass, do not aim them towards other people, and have water available in case a fire does break out. Also, make sure you cleanup after yourself because littering is a misdemeanor and that can result in a hefty fine.