Law enforcement urges firework safety for residents, visitors in Manatee County
MANATEE -- With the looming Fourth of July holiday, local law enforcement is reminding residents and visitors to be safe and refrain from using illegal fireworks.
With the exception of sparklers, fireworks are prohibited for use by the public in the state of Florida.
West Manatee Fire Rescue will have extra firefighters on Anna Maria Island on Thursday and Friday and work with law enforcement in hopes of having safe Fourth of July holiday on the beach.
"We just want everybody to be safe," said West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brett Pollock. The biggest concerns are the use of illegal fireworks, he added.
"Anything that flies in the air and goes bangs is illegal," Pollock said.
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater issued a press release on Wednesday urging residents to practice safety, as well.
"Independence Day weekend is a time to celebrate our country's freedom and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, but we must be smart and remember that fires and serious injuries can be caused by the improper use of fireworks," Atwater said. "Ensure your friends and family stay safe this Fourth of July by safely and correctly using fireworks."
The state also urged residents not to be fooled by signing "waivers" in order to purchase fireworks, which will clear anyone of responsibility if they are caught illegally using fireworks.
Recently this has not been in problem in Manatee County, according to Pollock.
The majority of illegal fireworks confiscated have been purchased outside the area, often times out of state, he said.
"That's been the problem for years, that we have a lot of vacationers," Pollock said. "People just need to take personal responsibility. They can be held liable if there are any injuries."
Pollock recalled an incident a few years back on Anna Maria Island where a man lost several fingers as a result of illegal fireworks someone else lighted.
"He was just there watching the fireworks," Pollock said.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office and police departments in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach will be patrolling the beaches to make sure illegal fireworks are not being used.
Another problem law enforcement has is with residents and visitors lighting and releasing Chinese lanterns -- paper lanterns that are lighted and released into the air.
"They are illegal," Pollock said.
They are very dangerous, because once they are released there is no control which way the wind will take them, he added.
The Manatee Sheriff's Office, which patrols the city of Anna Maria, hopes residents and visitors will heed the warnings.
"We encourage everyone to go to the public fireworks and leave the fireworks to the professionals," spokesman Dave Bristow said. "They are dangerous."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7045. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.