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Safety urged during the course of July 4th fun
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When the founding fathers of the United States signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, dads didn't grill ribs in the back yard, kids didn't run around neighborhoods with sparklers and families didn't spend the day at the lake making waves in motorboats.

Much has changed about how Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, but tips about how to celebrate safely haven't changed in several decades.


Many Georgians might not realize that for a few years the Official Code of Georgia has prohibited the general public from using all forms of fireworks including sparklers, Roman Candles and firecrackers because of several seasons of dry conditions.

The state fire marshal enforces this code by allowing only licensed pyrotechnic operators to create fireworks displays after they show proper qualifications and receive a permit from the probate judge of the county where the display will take place.

City of Covington Fire Chief Don Floyd said sparklers often go unnoticed by police officers because they do not cause an audible explosion or shoot up into the sky, but that any form of firework can start fires.

"There's no such thing as safe fireworks by my estimation," Floyd said.

Floyd said fires reported during holiday weekends in the warmer months usually stem from the illegal use of fireworks.

"We always have some instance of brush fires caused by fireworks," Floyd said.

Most individuals with fireworks get them from surrounding states where they are legal. Floyd said if people do shoot fireworks, they should do it in a safe location outside a neighborhood and away from trees, supervise children and only allow adults to shoot them and always have an extinguisher nearby.

Sheriff Joe Nichols said he can only remember one instance of injuries resulting from the misuse of fireworks in the past few years.

"Thank goodness we have had more nuisance problems in the past few years," Nichols said.

Nichols explained people caught shooting fireworks will be issued a citation for a misdemeanor violation of a state law.

"One year we took a bunch from some people and one was about 3 feet long," Nichols said. "I had no idea what it was or what it did, but we did confiscate it and destroy it."

He said a large number of deputies will be on hand at the fireworks display at The Church at Covington.

Grills and Campfires

Floyd said the same precautions should be taken with grills and campfires all year, but people need to be especially vigilant on holiday weekends because more people are cooking out and camping.

Grills and campfires should never be left unattended, according to Floyd.

People tending campfires need to be extremely careful during drought conditions since dry timber and brush can be easily ignited. Fires should always be contained by a fire ring or pit and completely doused before leaving the area.

Floyd said grills should not be used on wooden porches or too near homes or wooden fences, should never have combustible liquids stored near them and cooks should only use appropriate accelerants rather than gasoline or kerosene.

As always, he recommend children be supervised around open flames.


"Anytime you have a holiday weekend the frequency of wrecks and DUIs goes up," Nichols said.

He added all traffic units will be patrolling the county for individuals drinking and driving.

Although Nichols said the forth usually does not present a very heavy traffic situation, he did say that a few motorcycle groups passing through town will add to the slight increase of cars the county sees on the road for the holiday.

"Of course a slight increase in Newton County is catastrophic," joked Nichols.

He said already congested areas like the intersection of Crowell Road and Ga. Highway 81 as well as Salem Road will likely have more traffic on Wednesday.

Nichols also mentioned that Ga. Highway 81 will be closed for a short time on Wednesday morning while the City of Oxford and Oxford Lion's Club Parade makes its way down the road to Watson Street.

Lakes and pools

Nichols said deputies will be constantly patrolling Jackson Lake throughout the summer. They will also employ their newly purchased patrol boat.

He urged people not to drink while boating, skiing or swimming and for everyone on the water to wear flotation devices.

Of course children need to be supervised around any body of water, he added, no matter how shallow.

"I really appreciate the restraint the folks of Newton County have shown in the past few years," Nichols said, "because we have not had any really bad problems."

He said he hopes that trend continues this year.