Our Views: Display courtesy, common sense with fireworks

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Freedom Fest on Janesville’s northeast side got the Fourth of July season off to a bang Saturday with a concluding fireworks show that was long and loud.

As we mark the official holiday Friday, the Rock Aqua Jays will launch fireworks during their Fifth Annual Independence on the Rock at Traxler Park.

With those displays serving as local bookends for fireworks lovers, why would people  need to ignite bottle rockets or other illegal fireworks in their driveways or backyards? Why do so many adults revert to childhood and risk injuries and fires and disturb their neighborhoods?

The answers might be best left up to psychologists. In a Gazette story Saturday, however, Janesville police Sgt. Brian Donohoue offered another plausible explanation: Too often, drinking is involved, and mixing fireworks and alcohol can result in burns and bad decisions.

Common sense and courtesy to neighbors diminish as alcohol use rises.

Here’s another reason why those who insist on launching illegal fireworks should annoy those who don’t: It costs everyone tax dollars. Donohoue says several officers will work overtime to patrol on bike and foot and respond to complaints. Despite the extra manpower, he expects the officers to be busy.

The patrols make sense to keep our community safe. Realize, however, that police can’t be everywhere and that offenders often are done lighting the displays by the time officers reach the scene, and it’s difficult to determine the guilty parties. Also realize that an accident or bigger incident could divert officers’ attention.

State law bans use of airborne fireworks or anything explosive without a permit. A Janesville ordinance also bans fireworks that spin on the ground. In summary, if it leaves the ground or moves on the ground, it’s illegal in Janesville.

Threats of fines won’t deter some people. Expect lots of illegal fireworks nightly through at least Sunday. That’s despite the fact that Janesville Fire Marshal Sue North has been checking sales tents that have popped up to ensure dealers aren’t peddling prohibited fireworks.

Nationwide, fireworks cause close to 10,000 injuries each year. About two of every five people injured are children. Fireworks also cause more than 10,000 fires annually and tens of millions in property damage. While rains this week in Rock County have dampened fire risks, one poorly launched bottle rocket could still ignite your neighbor’s roof.

If you insist on launching illegal fireworks, what message about respecting the law are you sending to your children?

This week, let’s celebrate our nation’s independence safely and with respect to others. Instead of doling out cash to launch your own, why not settle in Friday night along the Rock River or take in a fireworks display at one of the many surrounding communities?

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