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Celebrate safely and sanely this 4th!
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This nation will officially celebrate Independence Day on Monday, July 4, 2011. Our separation from British rule set the stage for the United States to become what it is today - bold, powerful, wealthy and productive. For some people, the point of Fourth of July is lost in the fact that it is just another day off of work, which by itself is cause for celebration.

The way we celebrate is important to consider, since fireworks, firearms and drinking are often involved. This column is a reminder of the hazards involved with these things, with emphasis on keeping next week's holiday a safe one.

Fireworks are permitted in Ceres and many nearby communities, but the only legal ones are the "safe and sane" type, which excludes any device that "darts, flies or explodes." Nothing that explodes or flies through the air is legal - and for good reason; explosives and aerial fireworks injure people and cause fires.

Even the safe and sane fireworks can be dangerous. Every year numerous kids and adults suffer injuries from legal fireworks. The most common injuries from them are burns (of course), but eye injuries occur often as well. Fireworks can cause blindness, third degree burns, and permanent scarring, with the hands, fingers and legs leading the injury statistics. In short, fireworks must be treated with respect, and it is highly recommended that the persons setting them off refrain from using any kind of drugs or alcohol. We also recommend having buckets of water and a functional garden hose nearby in case a small fire starts.

Pets require special consideration during periods of time when fireworks are being used. We find that some pets, especially when they are left alone at home, become so scared from the sounds that they break out of their pens or homes and end up becoming strays. They can act irrationally, running through traffic and possibly getting hit by cars. Be sure to keep your pet's welfare in mind when making any Fourth of July plans.

After-celebration clean-up is also important. Spent fireworks usually leave behind burned paper, plastic bases and other materials, which amount to litter in the neighborhoods. Fortunately, many residents are cleaning up the streets and sidewalks when they are through with their fireworks festivities, but the morning-after mess still continues to be a problem in some neighborhoods. Fireworks debris should be swept up and disposed of properly. Make sure there are no hot embers that might set the garbage can on fire. The debris should not be washed or swept into the storm drains.

The discharging of firearms is a serious problem in our communities. And despite the common-sense warnings by the police and fire personnel, too many people carelessly discharge rifles, handguns and shotguns into the ground or air to make Fourth of July noise. The dangers are obvious with stray bullets and ricochets, but despite this, there are still those people who are willing to take the risk of injuring or killing someone in exchange for just a few moments of "fun." Whether shooting into the ground, at an object or into the air, such actions are patently illegal in any city environment and the applicable laws will be enforced with a "zero tolerance" posture. Any reports of firearms' discharges will be met with a serious police response because of the inherent dangers associated with those situations; violators can expect to be arrested and booked into jail and firearms confiscated.

We sincerely want this coming Fourth of July celebration to be safe and fun for everyone. With care and by using only safe and sane fireworks, we can avoid the house fires, burning fields, vehicle fires and injuries that almost always accompany this particular holiday. We will have additional police, fire and dispatch personnel on duty to deal with the increased calls for service and problems that may happen.