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Press Release: Loudoun County Fireworks 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Loudoun County, Virginia

Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management

Press Release

803 Sycolin Road, Suite 104

Leesburg, VA 20175

Friday, May 2, 2008

Press Release:

Planning Under Way for Fireworks Safety

Although the July 4th festivities are several weeks away, the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office has already begun planning to promote citizen safety relative to the proper use of fireworks. Beginning in June, various retail merchants, mainly housed in roadside stands or tents, will begin selling “permissible” fireworks throughout Loudoun County. These are fireworks that, according to state and local regulations, do not explode, do not rise into the air, do not travel laterally on the ground or do not fire projectiles into the air. These permissible fireworks include sparklers, fountains, cones and snakes. They are distinguished from other fireworks such as firecrackers, Roman candles, missiles, bottle rockets and shells, which are not allowed in Loudoun County without a permit.

“Throughout Northern Virginia, local fire marshals work closely as a group with the fireworks industry to ensure only permissible fireworks are sold to the general public,” according to W. Keith Brower, Jr., Chief Fire Marshal for Loudoun County. According to Brower, every January the various fireworks wholesale dealers submit samples from each product they wish to sell. The products have already been listed for the required consumer performance criteria by the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory, a nationally based industry organization. In March, the Northern Virginia fire marshals conduct a regional test of these samples to ensure they meet or exceed the safety criteria allowed for public use. “We have forged a good relationship with the fireworks industry and our testing provides a mutual benefit to them and to the public,” states Brower. “When we test, we generally find one or more products that do not meet established safety criteria, and they are removed for sale to the local public. The industry wins because removal of a product that is not really intended for the consumer could lessen their liability from an accident.”

When the testing is completed, a final list of permissible fireworks is published and made available to the public. In Loudoun County, Brower places the list on the Loudoun County website. The 2008 list will be published by the middle of May.

Despite these efforts, Brower remains frustrated every year due to the number of illegal fireworks that are brought into Loudoun County from other states, namely South Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Certain retail outlets even advertise via the local media, which causes confusion for consumers as they think they are legal to possess. “People are just asking for trouble when they bring these illegal fireworks into Loudoun County. Many of these items are considered explosives and are illegal, according to federal law, to transport across state lines. Locally, use of illegal fireworks is a violation of the Loudoun County Fire Prevention Code, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor, meaning a person could receive jail time of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $2,500.00.” Brower does advise that he is able to waive criminal charges for anyone who voluntarily contacts his office in advance to turn in illegal fireworks they may have unknowingly purchased. The number to the Fire Marshal’s Office is 703-737-8600.

As a final comment, Brower encourages the public to attend one of the many public fireworks displays that will be held throughout the County during the July 4th week. “We are meeting this week with the dozen or so sponsors of these public events to ensure their permit requirements are in order. This allows us to detect and correct possible safety deficiencies related to a location or to the venues’ fireworks shooters well ahead of the holiday events. The applicant must also have an emergency contingency plan in place to describe actions to be taken in the event of a fireworks accident, such as a mortar that fails to fire properly or shells that do not explode in the air and land intact on the ground.” In addition, Brower adds, all display sites are inspected for safety by his office before any show is allowed to proceed.

As time draws near to July 4th, the Fire Marshal’s Office will produce a list of all public fireworks display locations.

For Additional Information:

Mary L. Maguire, Public Affairs Officer

Loudoun County Fire-Rescue Services

(703) 777-0333

Friday, May 2, 2008

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