Most fireworks illegal in state forests and parks

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MADISON - People planning on camping in a Wisconsin state park or forest for the Fourth of July should enjoy fireworks displays in nearby communities -- not at picnic areas, campsites or other areas within state parks and forests.

Fireworks are illegal in Wisconsin state parks and forests, according to Jason Fritz, chief ranger for the Wisconsin State Parks program.

"For the safety of our guests and our resources, our rangers strictly enforce the no fireworks laws," Fritz said. "Fourth of July favorites, the sparkler and the snake, are not defined as 'fireworks' per Wisconsin state law, but most park and forest rangers and superintendents would rather not see them at all because they are a fire hazard."

A citation for illegal fireworks in a state park or forest can cost the lawbreaker up to $200 and parents could be liable for the full costs of putting out a fire started by their children playing with or setting off fireworks.

In fact, anyone responsible for starting a wildfire in Wisconsin is liable not only for the cost of putting the fire out but also for any damages, said Catherine Koele, forest fire prevention specialist with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.

As of the last week of June, fire dangers levels throughout Wisconsin were low, but even in low fire danger times, fireworks can start wildfires. So far in 2014, DNR records show 467 fires have burned more almost 2,500 acres in DNR fire protection areas of Wisconsin. Wildfires caused by fireworks only amount to five percent of the annual total, however, these fires typically occur in a condensed timeframe around the Fourth of July holiday.

State air quality officials also caution that the use of fireworks produces high concentrations of chemical particles, which can compromise air quality in a given area for a few hours.

Due to this smoke released during firework displays, individuals with health issues ranging from asthma to emphysema as well as heart and lung disease are advised to take special precautions to avoid exposure, according to Anne Bogar, DNR air quality outreach specialist. In addition, she said, families with small children or elderly adults are at a greater risk of being affected.

Bogar says the best way to reduce an individual's impact of firework smoke is to avoid or eliminate the personal use of fireworks at ground level.

"A better alternative for individuals with health risks is to attend public events where fireworks are launched to a higher altitude, allowing more time for smoke to dissipate before reaching ground level," she said.

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