DL ups its budget for July 4 beach fireworks show

Though this year's Independence Day festivities fall in the middle of the week, that doesn't mean the Detroit Lakes community's annual Fireworks on the Beach display is going to be in any way curtailed — in fact, organizers are planning a bigger event than ever.

"The last few years we've spent about $15,000," says Mark Fritz, who along with Lakeshirts partner Mike Hutchinson, has been coordinating the annual July 4 festivities for more than 25 years now. "This year, we've upped that to $20,000."

Local businesses provide the donations to fund the annual display, which enables them to hire Premier Pyrotechnics (www.premierpyro.com), a Missouri-based firm that stages state-of-the-art, professionally managed fireworks shows in communities across the country.

"They do a great job," Fritz said, adding, "they're very safety conscious."

Back in the early days, he noted, they would not only raise the money for the fireworks, but handle the show themselves, digging holes in the sand for the mortars needed to shoot off the fireworks.

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"We were doing it ourselves for a few years, and then we said, 'This is crazy; we need to hire somebody,'" Fritz said. "To have a trained professional do it, it's just much safer."

Not only that, but with the computerized, automated system that the company uses, he added, they are able to coordinate much more elaborate displays than if they were still firing off mortars from the city beach. "We wouldn't be able to do a finale like we have now," Fritz said.

The Fireworks on the Beach show will, of course, take place this Wednesday, July 4; Fritz noted that the show usually starts around 10:15 p.m., depending on the weather and light conditions.

"It should be an enjoyable show," he said, adding, "We have such a generous community. A lot of the beachfront businesses contribute, but we also get donations from the manufacturers, the service industries, downtown, and even from a handful of individuals, although we could always use more of that."

Any donations that aren't spent one year will go into the following year's fireworks show, so anyone who is interested in contributing can contact the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce at 218-847-9202 for more information.

Safety first

Of course, even with the show on the city beach, some people still prefer to do it themselves when it comes to July 4 fireworks. Before setting off those noisy, flashy — and possibly dangerous — instruments of flammable fun, local residents should be aware of the laws and safety issues regarding the use of fireworks.

According to the State Fire Marshal, only certified fireworks operators may conduct public displays of fireworks in Minnesota.

For members of the general public, only certain kinds of non-explosive and non-aerial fireworks are permitted throughout Minnesota. City and county rules abide by state law.

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Legal consumer fireworks include sparklers, cones and tubes that emit sparks as well as novelty items, such as snakes and party poppers.

Any type of firework that explodes or flies is illegal in Minnesota. This means they may not be sold, possessed or used within the state. Some examples include firecrackers, bottle rockets, missiles, Roman candles, mortars and shells.

It is illegal to use consumer fireworks on public property, such as roads, alleys, parks and school or government property. (Companies such as Premier Pyrotechnics have to obtain special permits to operate, and their fees include precautions such as emergency services and utilization of special rigging and support equipment — like the barge used for the Detroit Lakes show.)

Purchasers of fireworks must be at least 18 years old, and retailers must check their photo identification before selling firework products to them. For more information about what fireworks are and are not permitted, visit the Minnesota Department of Safety's website: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/sfm/programs-services/Pages/Fireworks-Infor....

Fireworks safety

Even legal fireworks carry a risk of injury or fire.

According to the State Fire Marshal, more than 30 percent of fireworks injuries come from sparklers. There are 73 hospital visits in an average year in Minnesota due to fireworks injuries, and 40 percent of these injuries happen to children.

According to Minnesota Department of Public Safety statistics from 2007 to 2016, 709 people were injured by fireworks in the state. Of those people, 71 percent were male; 20 percent were age 9 or younger; 23 percent were age 10 to 19; and another 23 percent were age 20 to 29.

From 2007 to 2015, data from the Minnesota Fire Incident Reporting System showed that losses from fireworks incidents during June and July ranged from $12,000 in 2011, when there were 15 incidents, to more than $300,000 in 2007, when there were 141 incidents. The 25 incidents in 2015 caused $61,969 worth of losses.

The State Fire Marshal advises:

• Use only Minnesota-legal types of fireworks, like sparklers, fountains, ground spinners and snappers.

• Point fireworks away from people and animals.

• Use fireworks in an open area away from trees and buildings.

• Extinguish and dispose of spent fireworks in a bucket of water.

• Do not try to relight a "dud."

• Use caution and make sure children are supervised around fireworks.

By Vicki Gerdes

Source, images, credits & more information: DLOnline