Fireworks danger heightened by drought conditions

June 27, 2012

Daniel Lytle, who manages a TNT Fireworks stand near Frankfort, Ind., says consumers must be extremely careful when igniting fireworks this summer because of very dry grasses caused by drought. (Purdue Agriculture Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

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 WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The hot, dry conditions Indiana is experiencing this summer make fireworks especially hazardous.

Dry grasses, forests and fields are especially combustible because of the drought conditions across Indiana, said Steve Creech, a retired state fire coordinator and lecturer for Purdue University's Department for Forestry and Natural Resources.

"Normally when you shoot off a firework and it lands in someone else's yard, that's not too big of a risk, but that's not the case this year," Creech said. "With the drought we're experiencing, there's a heightened risk of fireworks starting a fire off-site and spreading quickly."

Those grasses and other easily combustible items are known as "fine, flashy fuels," and Creech said they pose a risk to start a fire that can get out of control quickly.

"They will ignite very easily, and they will spread rapidly, especially if there's a wind behind them," Creech said. "Sometimes they'll spread faster than a person can walk. Those fires can get to structures before anyone has time to react."

Creech suggested that anyone shooting off fireworks find an area such as a large parking lot that is paved and nowhere near combustible materials. Better than that, even, would be to wait until after a prolonged, soaking rain can add more moisture to the ground and vegetation to reduce the risk.

Other unattended or discarded sources are also at heightened risk for causing fires, Creech said. Discarded cigarettes are more likely to ignite grasses, and campfires or other open burning sources could send embers quite a distance while remaining viable sources of combustion.

"We're seeing conditions now that people haven't seen before," Creech said. "There's a possibility for significant loss if people aren't extremely careful with fireworks."
     

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Source: Steve Creech, 812-360-3731, creech@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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