Nfld. & Labrador

Using fireworks on New Year's Eve? Fire chief offers safety tips

Backyard fireworks are a popular tradition for many people in Newfoundland and Labrador, but former fire commissioner Fred Hollett says they can also be extremely dangerous.
Most backyards are not big enough to set off fireworks, but many people light up the sky on New Year's Eve. (Photo/Gord Adams)

People across the province will ring in the New Year with a sky full of colour and smoke Thursday night. Backyard fireworks are a popular tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador, but fire officials say they can also be extremely dangerous.

The St. John's Morning Show asked Fred Hollett, the Portugal Cove-St. Philip's fire chief and former provincial fire commissioner, for his tips on using fireworks safely.

1. Read all the instructions

Every firework has detailed safety instructions on its packaging, which Hollett said people absolutely must read.

"The safe way to use them is to read the instructions on every single individual device. Every single piece. Before five minutes to 12 on New Year's Eve," said Hollett.

"Sit down at suppertime when things are quiet and you have the opportunity to read the instructions on the devices."

Portugal Cove-St. Philip's fire chief Fred Hollett says many things can go wrong with backyard fireworks. (CBC)

2. Make sure you have enough space

Hollett said people need to be careful about where they use their fireworks and set them off in clear, open areas. In most cases, spectators should be at least 100 metres away from the explosives—a distance that's difficult to achieve in downtown or suburban St. John's.

3. Stay sober

"It's no different from drinking and driving," said Hollet. "Fireworks and drinking don't mix either."

4. Have a bucket of water nearby

In case of emergencies, Hollett said it's important to be prepared. He urges people to remember that fireworks aren't toys. They're explosives regulated by the federal government.

5. Use common sense

Hollett said that over the years he's seen a plethora of fireworks-related mishaps.

"Read the instructions," Hollett says, and do it well in advance. (CBC)

"Fireworks hitting homes, landing on roofs and damaging roofs because they burn quite hot. People misusing them, holding them in their hands when they shouldn't, tying them onto a fence upside down—the stories are out there," he said.

"Over the years we've heard of incidents of damage or people burning their hands and their fingers. I think there's a lot more that goes on than we actually hear about."

Hollett said he'd rather not see home fireworks being used at all, and urged people to be safe and responsible if they plan on lighting up the sky Thursday night. 


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