Summer is almost here, and we see our kids growing up, graduating grade levels, and perhaps moving on to college for the next chapter of their lives. We should also use these summer months as an opportunity to gather with friends and family and foster a greater sense of community. Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July, and pretty much any other summer weekend are synonymous with grilling, fireworks, and family and neighborhood fun. As someone who loves a nice steak or burger on a summer evening, I know just how important these activities are. Along with the increased heat, however, comes an increased risk of accidental fires. As chair of the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee, I urge you to take appropriate precautions when grilling or using approved fireworks. Doing so can prevent serious injury, and even save a life.
Make sure to place your grill at least 15 feet away from any home, building, or other combustibles to ensure adequate air circulation and contained flames. Propane bottles should be kept away from the house (in a shed if you have one), as even empty tanks present a risk of fire. If you have a balcony on your apartment or condo, don’t use a gas or charcoal grill on it. Doing so is against the law. Most importantly, do not place hot ashes in paper or plastic containers. Even if you do not see any embers, they could still be lurking within a pile of ash.
While summer just wouldn’t be the same without fireworks, make sure you follow the law when using them, and adhere to important safety tips. Remember, any firework which explodes, emits a flame or sparks higher than 12 feet, or acts as a projectile, is prohibited by Fairfax County. Keep in mind that many people in the county are injured every year due to fireworks, and some are so seriously injured they are left with permanent damage. When using legal fireworks, place them on a flat surface, clear of any combustible material and clear of all buildings. Be sure to keep all bystanders at least 25 feet away from the fireworks, and read the directions provided. Do not permit young children to handle or light fireworks. Light them one at a time, and do not throw them.
Sparklers account for the majority of firework-related injuries. Young children should not use them as they can attain a temperature as high as 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, ensure fireworks are stored in a cool, dry place. Remember, there are many public fireworks displays that are often very enjoyable and safe.
Having fun during the summer is important, but so is safety. As your neighbor and Braddock District supervisor, I ask you not to allow your holiday weekend or other enjoyable event turn into a tragedy. Take the time to follow proper safety precautions when both grilling and using fireworks, and you can help prevent an unwanted visit from the County’s Fire & Rescue Department.