ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO) — As the Fourth of July draws closer, police are issuing a dire warning this year: the extreme dryness sweeping northern Illinois is making the use of fireworks extremely dangerous.
Boone County Fire Protection District 2 Chief Brian Kunce says residents need to know how risky it is right now, due to drought conditions.
He says his department has already handled more than its usual share of accidental fires, and they’ve been worse than normal.
Kunce says something as simple as a sparkler or a discarded cigarette can start a blaze in seconds.
“Even the smaller type of incident increases so quickly because of the dryness. We don’t have enough moisture in the ground. This is a dangerous time for all of us,” he said.
Deputy Chief Adam Brahmstedt added, “This time of year, we usually have a lot more moisture, a lot more humidity in the air. As dry as things have gotten, that can catch people off-guard sometimes, and they can go about normal business and not realize there’s an increased risk of fire.”
Fire officials say residents should cancel any bonfires, fireworks, or any open flame until the area receives some rain.
Last year, the department said it handled about 120 fireworks-related injuries. Most fireworks are illegal in Illinois, but fire officials say even those that are legal, like sparklers, can hurt or start a fire.
“Having bonfires and fireworks, those kinds of things in these situations do cause a greater risk to people and their neighbors, and everyone around them,” Brahmstedt said.
Kunce suggests watering the grass or laying mulch if residents ignore his warning and have a fire event anyway. He says a garden hose or water supply should always be nearby.
“We’re really concerned this time of year with the drought. So we want everybody to be safe. We don’t want to see anybody can hurt. We don’t want to see any property loss or damage. So please, please be careful,” he said.
Kunce says even if a fire is extinguished it’s still a good idea to call the fire department. They have a thermal imaging tool that can confirm the fire is out.