Iowans prep for holiday


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Despite efforts earlier this year, Iowans will have to rely on public and private firework shows for the Fourth of July.

Iowans can only buy “gold sparklers” without magnesium, chlorate, or perchlorate, as well as “flitter sparklers” less than 1/8 of an inch in diameter, and “snakes” containing no mercury.

In order to set off larger fireworks, enthusiasts must apply for a permit with local authorities.

“It is possible, but not easy,” said Roger Jensen, Iowa City deputy fire chief, about getting a permit.

Applicants need to provide details of the site they intend to use, demonstration of insurance, and descriptions of the planned pyrotechnics.  Additionally, the certification of the pyro-technician who will run the show is required.

Earlier this year, a bill to legalize the possession, sale, and use of fireworks failed to garner support in the Legislature. That proposal would have allowed all Iowans to buy and use fireworks for the first time in nearly 80 years.

Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware are the only four states in which all fireworks are banned, aside from professional display.

In 2013, fireworks-related injuries were at their highest level in the United States in more than a decade, according to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

An estimated 11,400 injuries were reported in 2013, 31 percent higher than 2012’s 8,700 injuries, the report said.

According to the report, the majority of injuries they investigated closely were due to misuse or malfunction of the fireworks.  All eight of the fatalities in 2013 involved the use of home-manufactured or banned fireworks.

Banned or not, several Iowans across Johnson County have successfully applied to put on their own displays.

“We appreciate it; we can just pull out our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks,” said Sandy Gingerich, the co-owner of the Sleepy Hollow Campground in Oxford.

Sleepy Hollow has been putting on fireworks displays during the Fourth of July week for a number of years prior to the Gingerichs’ ownership. Gingerich said the campsite is always fully booked for the better part of the summer.

The campground’s pyro-technician has been able to put on a safe show for the approximately 400 campers each year, and they’ve yet to be disappointed, she said.

Sleepy Hollow is only one of the many public firework showings throughout Johnson County that take place each year.

The three-day-long annual Iowa City Jazz Festival will end with a firework display on Saturday, following Coralville’s 4thFest fireworks display on Friday.

Fourth of July displays are also shown each year at Lake Macbride State Park, Hills, and Lone Tree.

Officials advise parents to be careful when letting their children play with fireworks and related items.

According to Product Safety Commission officials, sparklers and rockets are generally perceived as being less powerful.

Those items accounted for a staggering 40 percent of all estimated injuries in 2013, the report said.

Linda Fobian of Iowa City said she puts on a private annual display for friends and family.  When her family’s cabin was washed away in the 2008 flood, she and her husband moved the show to their home.

She said it has never been hard for her to get a permit for her show from Johnson County officials, and she is confident in the way safety is handled.

“So far we’ve never had an issue with any problems or fires,” Fobian said.

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