Jul. 2—AUSTELL — Brows raised, the mannequin leaned expectantly over the mortar tube.
Owing perhaps to its watermelon cranium, a vacant look lay in his google-eyes. Mercifully, he appeared unconcerned about his imminent rendezvous with oblivion.
As the fuse was struck, firefighters and camera crews kept back at what was presumed to be a safe distance. A burst of smoke, color, and noise later, and the unsuspecting melon-man was left teetering with his face shorn off and his noggin scattered into dozens of pieces on the asphalt.
And that, Cobb County firefighters added, is why July Fourth revelers should never attempt to relight a firework.
Thursday's fireworks safety demonstration was intended to hammer home the dangers of unauthorized pyrotechnics. Firefighters made the case that residents should exercise particular caution ahead of the Independence Day weekend.
"This tends to be the busiest time of year for us for fires and emergency medical services," said fire department spokesperson Nick Danz, adding that the department sees thousands of injuries and fires during the summer months.
Indeed, the lesson hit a shade too close to home as a spark from the mortar or a bit of shrapnel appeared to catch one of the nearby firefighters, who retreated indoors clutching her face and flanked by several of her coworkers.
Ramses Rivas, spokesperson for the department, later said the firefighter was doing well.
The incident hammered home the importance of detonating fireworks at a safe distance from bystanders and observers.
The department also demonstrated an idea as foolhardy — if not more — than inspecting a firework which has not launched. Another mannequin had a mortar taped to its faux hands, and found itself with two fewer appendages after detonation.
Firefighters said by far the most dangerous device, in terms of number of injuries, are the otherwise innocuous-looking sparklers. Though not explosive, sparklers burn at temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly twice as hot as a wood fire.
Danz produced a thermal imaging camera to display the risks of sparklers, clocking around 1,050 degrees. He then touched the sparkler to an impaled hot dog, which left an ugly scar on the frankfurter within seconds.
Given sparklers cause more injuries than any other type of firework, Cobb recommends parents consider glow sticks or noisemakers as more child-appropriate means to get into the patriotic spirit.
The best bet for enjoying a display, Danz added, is to attend one of dozens of planned professional fireworks shows over the course of the weekend.
It's also worth noting that improper use of fireworks can draw the attention of law enforcement. While their use is typically banned after 9 p.m., state law allows fireworks to be used up until midnight on July 3 and 4. Fireworks are also prohibited in county parks.