MANATEE -- Kicking off Fourth of July with a family cookout and some fireworks sounds like a good recipe.
Be cautious how you celebrate this special day, though, since fireworks and firearms
shot into the air can cause injuries and deaths.
"Each year nationwide, you hear of an innocent bystander being struck and killed due to this senseless act," Bradenton Deputy Police Chief Warrant Merriman said of people firing guns into the air. "It's a crime, and potentially deadly, especially in a densely populated area like the city of Bradenton."
Merriman said it's a simple truth: When a bullet is fired in the air, it must come down, and it descends at a velocity great enough to cause serious injury or death.
Authorities encourage people to dial 911 if they hear gunfire.
"If you hear gunfire within the city of Bradenton, even if you do not know where it came from, we ask that you contact your local law enforcement agency, because other residents may know who committed the criminal act," Merriman said. "Lastly, I strongly encourage our citizens to not shoot their firearms during Fourth of July celebrations."
Illegal fireworks are another concern.
Tom Soleau, fire inspector at West Manatee Fire Rescue, said "anything that goes boom is illegal" under Florida law,
Firecrackers, which include Roman candles, bottle rockets and red waves, are illegal and extremely dangerous.
"Firecrackers can blow thumbs off if they use it wrong," Soleau said.
It is illegal to buy, sell or explode fireworks in the air in Florida.
"If we see people using explosive fireworks, we would warn them and confiscate the firework," Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
Fire departments and law enforcement don't want to take out all the fun out of Fourth of July traditions. Sparklers and trick matches are legal.
Officials advise adult supervision even when using sparklers.
"Adult supervision is always advised when kids are using fireworks," Bristow said. "You can really get hurt from them."
Bristow, Soleau, and Merriman hope the community keeps this Fourth of July fun, safe and injury-free.
"If you want to go see fireworks, go see them professionally done," Soleau said.
The non-emergency number for Bradenton's police department is 941-932-9300, the West Manatee Fire Rescue is 941-761-1555, and Manatee County Sheriff's Office is 941-747-3011. In case of an emergency, call 911.