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Firefighters warn against illegal ‘home shows’

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Huntington, WV (WOWK) — Fourth of July weekend is upon us and things are different this year given the cancellation of many firework shows.

Health officials are concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 as crowds gather to watch the displays still happening.

Meanwhile, local firefighters are worried about the impact of the cancellations themselves, as more people turn to make their own firework shows.

Captain Mat Winters, the Fire Marshal of Huntington Fire Department, sees this as inevitable.

“People are out and about, and this year is especially different, we’ve had the lockdown, we’ve had COVID, all of the public displays are canceled so it’s really, it’s putting a stress on people so more people are doing the home fireworks,” Winters said.

It’s precisely these types of home ‘shows’ which cause the most accidents.

“I’m sure we will see somewhat of an increase in call volume due to that.”

Captain Mat Winters, Fire Marshal of Huntington Fire Department

Despite this forseen risk, Captain Winters says his department is not doing anything extra in preparation for the holiday weekend.

“We’re at our standard normal staffing, our goal through this with COVID-19 has not changed. We maintain our standard staffing and we’re here to protect lives and property.” 

Captain Mat Winters, Fire Marshal of Huntington Fire Department

The same goes for Fire Chief Michael Mahlmeister over in Ironton, Ohio, and his crew.

“We’re ready, on the edge of our seat a little more than normal,” Mahlmeister said.

As many in the tri-state area can attest to, the calls of illegal firework activity have been increasing.

“It’s what we’re hearing not just locally, but nationally is a major increase in firework sales this year, and I would say that’s directly tied to the lack of public shows nationally. I think we’re down to two this year in our area where there’s usually about ten, so it’s a major decrease.”

Chief Michael Mahlmeister, Ironton Fire Department

The use of fireoworks within Huntington city limits is illegal.  

“It’s a little different.  We don’t have our normal number of public displays so we’ve already seen an increase in use of illegal fireworks,” Winters said.

This is a sentiment echoed by Chief Mahlmeister in Ironton, where fireworks are illegal statewide.

“I’m not going to be naive to think no one is going to set off fireworks in the city ’cause I know they are. But my only this is, I just hope they do it within the safety regulations of the fireworks and do things with some common sense.” 

Chief Michael Mahlmeister, Ironton Fire Department

Both fire departments urge people to leave the fireworks in the box this year.

“Don’t use ’em.  Not in the city. If you choose to use legal fireworks, be safe, take the extra precautions.  These are all preventable injuries, preventable fires.”

Captain Mat Winters, Fire Marshal of Huntington Fire Department.

The City of Huntington Fire Department has recently created a Youtube series of videos detailing important safety tips and guidelines you may want to check out before the festivities commence this weekend.

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