New Year’s revelers urged to practice fireworks safety

Brownsville residents prepare to celebrate the new year with fireworks.

Traditions of commemorating the start of the New Year vary between merrymakers. Some spend the night watching the ball drop in Times Square with a toast; while others abide by New Year’s Eve superstitions, such as a midnight kiss for a year’s worth of luck in love.

Though there is a myriad of ways people invite the new year, the most common, and loudest, celebratory practice is illuminating the night sky with a show of fireworks when the clock strikes midnight, and local law enforcement officials are urging residents to practice safety.

Investigator John David Franz of the Hidalgo County Fire Marshal’s Office said that with the progress of ride-sharing services, there is no excuse to be driving intoxicated.

“Alcohol and fireworks do not mix,” said Franz. “Now that we have services that can drive you home, like Ubers and other taxi services, there is just no excuse to be caught on the road. Around New Year, it is the time to celebrate and make wise choices.”

Franz also urged those who are planning to pop fireworks at home to do so in a “safe zone,” an area free of dead grass and foliage, away from buildings and combustible items. He recommends using an empty dirt field to minimize risk of accidents.

According to the National Council of Firework Safety, revelers should only ignite one firework at a time and stay 25 to 40 yards away from ground-based fireworks and 75 yards from aerial displays. The organization also prompts the public to never carry fireworks in pockets or shoot them in metal or glass containers and to not experiment with homemade fireworks.

There was one notable instance of celebratory gunfire gone wrong, when State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco was shot in the head by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve 2017.

“We want people to use common sense,” said Franz, who discourages celebratory gunfire. “Do not make decisions that could harm others, and shooting weapons in the air is not the smartest way to celebrate.”

Regarding the debri remnants of the explosives, the National Council of Firework Safety recommends to wet spent fireworks and dispose of them in metal trash cans. The council also advises the public to follow the instructions of fireworks and to be aware of the cautionary statements on labels before igniting.

Residents should also have a bucket of water and fire extinguisher nearby and never light a “dud” firework again, and instead soak it in water 20 minutes later.

The word “firework” comes from the Greek word pyrotechnics, which translates to “fire art” or “fire skill.”

“People enjoy with fireworks everywhere, but that also means that accidents happen everywhere,” said Franz.

“We want the people of Hidalgo to stay safe and we will to our best to minimize the amount of tragedies that happen. We have emergency cruisers located around to make sure that everyone is celebrating safely and that help is close by.”