Terrebonne, St. Mary ban fireworks; limited use in Lafourche

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The rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air will only be allowed in the skies over Lafourche Parish this Fourth of July.

“We have a time structure in place for certain holidays, including the Fourth of July, for residents to pop fireworks,” said Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brennan Matherne. “If residents are aware of the times, they know that the times change from day to day.”

Lafourche Parish residents in Lockport and unincorporated parts of the parish can set off fireworks today and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to midnight and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, July 5. Residents of Golden Meadow may only pop fireworks from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., July 3-4 at Oak Ridge Park. Fireworks will not be allowed anywhere in the city limits of Thibodaux, but residents may view a fireworks display at the city’s Let Freedom Ring event on July 4. The citation for discharging a firework outside of the time structure carries a maximum of 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine or both per violation, but Matherne said those incidents are few and far between.

“I think most citizens understand the firework time structures we have for the holidays,” Matherne said. “Our biggest concern is safety. We know people want to pop fireworks, and we ask that residents practice safety and common sense, especially when letting children pop fireworks. Please make sure to supervise children if they are popping fireworks.”

Steve Hunt, owner of Cajun Fireworks of Lafourche, is usually busiest on July 3-4, and the majority of his customers are from Lafourche Parish.

“We get buyers from Terrebonne Parish, but they are getting fireworks to pop with friends are family in Lafourche Parish,” Hunt said. “Most people come in and pick and choose lots of different fireworks.”

Hunt’s most popular fireworks are the Steel Navy, an aircraft carrier armed with 78 shots, and the Ultimatum, an artillery shell kit with 36 ball shells, 36 canister shells, 24 double-break and 24 triple-break shells. The business owner also has two other firework tents in the Bayou Blue area and one in Stephensville.

Les Briggs and Janis Vezzoso drove in from Waveland, Miss., to get their fireworks, but their trip purpose was two-fold.

“We know Steve and Jean (Hunt) because they provide the amusements for our church fair,” Vezzoso said. “We can buy fireworks in Mississippi, but we came here to visit, too.”

The sale and discharge of fireworks are banned in both Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes, but local law enforcement still receive calls about residents setting them off.

“Last Fourth of July, we received 43 fireworks complaints,” said Houma Police Chief Todd Duplantis.

“We receive calls around Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, too, but most of the firework complaints come in around the Fourth of July.

“In any community, whether fireworks are legal or illegal, the community will never be completely fireworks-free.”

While the department does not usually send officers to search for illegal fireworks during a holiday that is busiest for DWI patrols, extra officers will be on hand to patrol for fireworks because of the current drought conditions. Zero tolerance will be exercised for those caught popping fireworks, according to Duplantis.

“My preference is that we don’t see any fireworks within the city limits of Houma,” Duplantis said. “There’s a lot more density, (and) there’s a lot less open land, making it difficult to set off fireworks safely within the city limits.”

Anyone convicted of setting off fireworks in Terrebonne Parish can be sentenced to up to 30 days in the parish jail or be fined up to $500, or both. Anyone who causes property damage from discharging fireworks will also be held responsible for any damage. Officers will recover and dispose of any additional illegal fireworks.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office regulates the fireworks industry and grants permits to about 800 retail stands, and deputies from the office inspect stands to make sure the retailers meet the requirements for fire safety and registration. Anyone found selling fireworks without the proper documentation from the Office of the State Fire Marshal will be issued a “cease and desist” order until obtaining the proper permits.

Once fireworks are purchased, it is up to those who buy the devices to make sure the recommended safety practices are followed. In the last few years, fireworks, including sparklers, which can reach temperature higher than 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, have become one of the leading causes behind injuries that are severe enough to need an emergency room visit.

In addition to bodily harm, fireworks have also caused about $27 million in property damage across the country in recent years.

According to State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning, state law prohibits the sale of fireworks to any child under the age of 15, and parents may be held responsible for any damages or injuries caused by their children’s illegal use of fireworks.

“A family’s home represents the work of a lifetime,” Browning said in a statement. “Losing your home or having a family member seriously injured because of a fireworks accident would be disastrous.

“When things go wrong, they go wrong very fast, and often with disastrous consequences.”

Most firework property damage is caused by bottle rockets or other fireworks including rockets and aerial devices, which can land on rooftops or other structures.

“Due to the fire hazard as well as the inherent risk of injury involved in fireworks, citizens are urged to use extreme caution when handling fireworks to ensure a safe, fire-free holiday,” Browning said. “The few moments of pleasure consumer fireworks bring are not worth the risk of property loss, injury or death.”

Janis Vezzoso and Les Briggs of Waveland, Miss., shop for fireworks at Cajun Fireworks of Lafourche in Bayou Blue.