GREAT FALLS - Everyone knows that Independence Day looks colorful with fireworks going off through the night.
It'll also look busy for vendors and Great Falls Fire Rescue due to the legalization of bottle rockets and Roman candles, which are in their second summer of being legal in Montana.
“There has been an increase this year, usually picks up around the 1st through the 4th, and then we get really busy,” said Tim McDowell, a supervisor at Hong Kong Harry’s.
Roman candles and bottle rockets were banned in Montana for decades, but the ban was rescinded in the 2021 Montana legislature with the fireworks becoming legal. The fire department is expecting more calls this year.
They said last year was one of the busiest Independence Day holidays that they've ever had, and bottle rockets and Roman candles played a large role in that.
“Last year with the legalization of bottle rockets and Roman candles is the first time that we had multiple facial traumas and traumas to the hands and bodies because of fireworks," Fire Marshal Mike McIntosh said. "Fourth of July weekend is one of our busiest weekends of the year, so Roman candles and bottle rockets definitely played into that.”
The fire department is always on high alert at this time of year, but as sales continue to rise, the fire department and vendors continue to stress the importance of fireworks safety. McIntosh recalls last year when he saw a group of kids chasing each other through the Sam’s Club parking lot, Roman candles in tow.
“Don’t do that, that’ll get someone hurt and in the ER," McIntosh said. "We got lucky that we didn’t have any big working incidents because we would have been stretched thin.”
This year, bottle rockets and Roman candles are still some of the first fireworks to leave the shelves.
Sellers and stands are expecting more people in the next few days to pick theirs up. McDowell says Hong Kong Harry’s has already sold quite a few bottle rockets and Roman candles.
“Lots of people are liking them,” he said, commenting on how they are some of his most popular items.
Petra Kelly sells fireworks at Fireworks Alley on 10th Avenue South and recalls last year that both bottle rockets and Roman candles sold out fast. She expects this year they will see more of that.
“Everyone wanted to buy them along with the bottle rockets. Last year, they sold out quickly. So this year it's still early in the season," Kelly said. "I'm sure later we’ll get a lot more business. But this year I have seen quite a few people buy bottle rockets and Roman candles. They're still selling pretty well.”
Fireworks will be legal to set off within city limits from July 2nd to July 4th at midnight. Primary rules and regulations include:
- The selling and discharging of fireworks within the incorporated limits of Great Falls can only take place on July 2, 3, and 4 from 8:00 a.m. to midnight.
- Children 9 and younger partaking in the firework festivities must have a supervising adult within 10 feet, in order to control the application of flame or other means to discharge the firework.
- Residents should only discharge fireworks on private property (sidewalk leading to your residence and or driveway) and should always clean up any trash that is left behind from the discharging of fireworks.
Great Falls Fire Rescue urges those setting off fireworks to take these necessary steps to keep yourself and others safe:
- Read Directions – Read the cautionary labels and directions before discharging.
- Discharge Outdoors – Always use fireworks outside in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
- Keep Fireworks away from Others - Never point or throw fireworks at another person or place any part of your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse.
- One at a Time - Light fireworks one at a time, then move back to a safe distance quickly.
- Have Water Handy! – Have a bucket of water or a water hose nearby to prevent a possible fire. Always remember to douse discharged fireworks with water once they have completely burned before throwing the fireworks away to prevent a trash fire.
- Adult Supervision - A responsible adult should always closely supervise all fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Clean it Up - Always clean up used fireworks when finished (make sure they are doused with water!).
- Prevent Injury – Fireworks should never be carried in a pocket or be shot off in metal or glass containers. Fireworks should be used on a solid, flat level surface. Never use altered fireworks. Not only are they dangerous, they can also be illegal.
- Sparklers - Sparklers can burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers.
- It Didn’t Light - If a firework does not work, leave it alone. Do not try to relight it. Pour water on it.
- Buying Fireworks – Purchase fireworks only from reliable outlets. Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper or packaging. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.