As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, Derry officials, along with New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan and Chief David Parenti, president of the New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs, caution residents that the use of consumer fireworks should be done with “extreme vigilance and responsibility.”
“Fireworks are explosive devices and are dangerous and unpredictable,” said Degnan. “The few seconds of pleasure that firework displays may bring to family and friends are not worth the risk of permanent scarring, loss of vision and hearing, dismemberment or even death.”
Wooded areas, homes, and automobiles have become engulfed in flames because of fireworks, they said. “A substantial portion of structure fire property loss is due to fireworks typically involving rockets,” Parenti said. “These rockets can land on rooftops and still retain enough heat to cause a fire. Sparklers burn at a temperature of more 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To put this into perspective, water boils at 212 degrees F and glass melts at 900 degrees F.”
Derry Police Capt. Vern Thomas said his town follows the list on the State Web site for permissible and non-permissible fireworks. The town also follows the state guidelines, which include only discharging fireworks on your own property or the property of someone who has given permission to discharge.
The law prohibits people from discharging fireworks on town property or from a public street, and also prohibits fireworks from landing on town property or a public street. People occasionally try to circumvent this law, he said, because they don’t want to set off the fireworks from their own property. “There’s a good percent of the time,” he said, “that they don’t respect that law.”
“Permissible use” also assumes that the discharger of the fireworks is not creating a nuisance with the noise. What’s fun at 9 p.m. may be a nuisance around 11 p.m., when people are putting their children to bed or trying to sleep before the next work day, Thomas said. If a resident is found to be annoying others with the fireworks it is considered disturbing the peace, and they could be charged with disorderly conduct, he said.
“One of my biggest concerns,” Thomas said, “is people who set off fireworks after consuming alcohol. It makes it that much less safe.” While the number of Derry people who imbibe and ignite is small, it’s too much for Thomas, who said this creates an unsafe condition.
“If you choose to use permissible fireworks in a lawful manner, it makes sense that you not consume alcohol,” he said. Thomas recommends having the person setting off the display abstain from alcohol for that night, “kind of like a designated driver,” he said.
Degnan noted that New Hampshire State law requires:
• You must be 21 or older to purchase permissible fireworks.
• You must be 21 or older to display permissible fireworks.
• You must be in a community that allows the use of permissible fireworks.
• You must be on your own private property or have written permission of the property owner.
Degnan recommends that public displays conducted by trained professionals are the safest way to enjoy fireworks. However, should residents decide to use consumer fireworks, Degnan encourages extreme caution.
Residents should always follow the directions for each item, be sure to have an extinguishing device readily accessible, such as a water hose, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher; stay the recommended distance away from buildings and viewers and avoid areas with dry brush, grass or debris; light one item at a time and never inside an enclosed container; never attempt to relight a firework or a non-functioning firework; and never allow children to handle fireworks or to pick up leftover fireworks debris off the ground.
Derry’s fireworks display will be Friday, July 4, in the ballfield behind Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, and is expected to start between 9 and 9:15 p.m.