Random Ephemera

5 Things To Consider About 4th Of July Fireworks

The 4th of July is upon us, as Americans all over the country prepare to celebrate our nation's biggest patriotic holiday in grand style. Fireworks have been a part of those festivities since the very beginning, when founding father John Adams envisioned a spectacular celebration including them. On the first Independence Day celebration in 1777, people gathered to watch fireworks, probably as a morale booster for citizens of the new country, which was still at war with the British at the time.

The tradition of fireworks being linked to the 4th of July stuck, and has been part of celebrating the holiday ever since. Not everyone living in a modern city like Houston is a fan though, and there are some very good reasons to consider skipping the drive out to one of the roadside stands that set up shop a few weeks in advance of the holiday to load up on explosive devices. Let's look at those reasons.

5. It's Illegal In The City Limits.

Unsurprisingly, it's completely illegal to discharge or to even possess fireworks inside Houston's city limits. Also (sadly) unsurprising, every 4th of July, Houstonians living in many parts of town will hear or see their more idiotic neighbors exploding various kinds of fireworks. If they're particularly "lucky," they'll be of the aerial variety, possibly landing on someone's roof in a sparkly burst of glory. The fine for such irresponsible behavior is between $500 and $2,000 for each individual firework, so parents who think letting their kids blow them up is harmless fun might consider that they could cost them thousands if the cops show up.

4. Pets Hate Them, And Some Run Away.

A sizable percentage of people keep pets in Houston, and the sad fact is that fireworks scare some of them very badly, causing more pets to escape and go missing than any other day of the year. Shelters tend to get hit particularly hard the week after the 4th, as they are flooded with lost pets who broke free after hearing the unsettling popping sound of someone discharging fireworks nearby. Illegally setting off a bunch of firecrackers in the city limits is a creepy thing to do if it leads to someone's beloved pet escaping, and people with close neighbors in parts of the area where it's legal to discharge fireworks might consider telling those neighbors ahead of time, so that they can take extra precautions with their animals.

3. Fireworks Can Be Upsetting To Sufferers Of PTSD (and Other People).

Some people suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is triggered by loud noises, particularly fireworks, which sometimes mimic the sounds of gunfire. There are a lot of veterans living with PTSD, and one of the least patriotic things I can think of is triggering a veteran's condition by discharging fireworks in densely populated areas where they shouldn't be used. Beyond those individuals who have stress disorders, there are lots of others who are understandably frightened by sudden loud and unexpected noises. People should try to consider others before setting off a string of Black Cats in their backyard, even if it is legal where they happen to live.

2. Fireworks Can Be Dangerous.

Kind of a no-brainer, but fireworks are explosives, which involve fire in one way or another, so there is a certain level of risk involved when using them. Most people who've lit the fuses on a significant number of firecrackers have come across a few with really fast fuses, or the dreaded "dud" where the fuse burns down and the firecracker just doesn't explode...at first. Every year, a few people have fireworks explode in their hands, or an errant rocket of some sort lands on their roof before spewing out a shower of sparks. Fireworks are inherently dangerous to a degree, and there aren't too many ways to make them entirely safe. The risk involved is probably at least part of their appeal to many people. Still, observing a few basic rules can make them less risky, and people would be well advised to do simple things like avoiding firing rockets in densely populated areas, or holding lit firecrackers in their hands.

1. The Houston Area Has Several Great Fireworks Displays.

Most major cities host a public firework display, and some of them are amazing. There are several that will be held in the Houston area this year, including the Freedom Over Texas event and the Houston Symphony's "Star Spangled Salute," held at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Those are just two of several being held in the area, so there are definite options for those of us who feel that it's just not a 4th of July celebration without some explosions lighting up the night sky. It's also a heck of a lot more responsible and legal to attend one of those displays than it is to go somewhere inside the city limits to pop a bunch of small explosives illegally in someone's backyard.

To some people, fireworks and the 4th are inextricably linked, and that's understandable. Those individuals who don't want to attend one of the numerous professional firework displays being held in the area, should at least go somewhere safely outside of city limits, and take some reasonable precautions to ensure that their festivities don't send someone to the hospital or make their neighbors suffer. The 4th of July should be a time of celebration and not something to look back on with regret, because someone made bad decisions.
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.