Editor's Note: Have fun, stay safe this Fourth of July

This weekend is Independence Day, which means many people all over the country will celebrate our nation’s history by playing with explosives.

Better yet, many will do so while consuming alcohol, which will probably really help when it comes to making good decisions.

I like fireworks, but seriously, let’s take a healthy dose of caution and common sense this weekend.

For starters, realize that in Illinois, most forms of fireworks are illegal without a permit. There are some that fall within legal bounds, mostly smoke and noise makers. Bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers? Nuh-uh.

There are a certain number of you rolling your eyes right now because that is just no fun. Maybe, but safety aside for a moment, when you break the law you risk having to pay a penalty, even if you disagree with the law and think it is stupid. Fines vary, and it’s possible the only penalty you’ll face is confiscation of your stash – in which case you’re still out whatever you paid for them.

And frankly, I’ve seen plenty of amateurs lighting off illegal fireworks over the years, and none of them have put on a show that even comes close to being as good as a professional display. So really, why not just leave it to the pros to begin with and go to one of the excellent area displays?

Then there is the safety issue – the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports about 10,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, most around the Fourth of July. Burns are most common, though about 17 percent of injuries were to eyes, where lacerations and contusions were more prevalent.

More than 1,000 of those injuries are attributed to my old playthings, sparklers. Many people don’t know that sparklers burn at about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit – to put that in perspective, steel begins to warp and sag around 1,100 degrees.

Sparklers are legal in Illinois, but they do require a certain amount of caution and common sense. My older son, a responsible 8-year-old, will be allowed to have one if he wants, though, like me when I was a kid, he will have to remain in one place under adult supervision while it burns.

My younger son might get mad, but at not-quite 3 years old, he will not get to play with a sparkler. He’ll get over it.

One more note: please don’t take your dog to a fireworks display. Even calm dogs, even dogs that can handle thunder or gunfire, even dogs who have handled fireworks in the past, can get stressed and bolt, endangering themselves and the people around them.

Leave your dog at home, in a room with a TV or radio on to drown out noise. Make sure you close windows and doors; frightened dogs have been known to push through screens trying to escape. They’ve also been known to scale, dig under or squeeze through fences that normally keep them contained.

Lost dog reports increase by about 30 percent around the Fourth of July. Keep your furry friend safe and let them sit this holiday out.

Enjoy your MidWeek.

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