Suffolk officials warn of holiday dangers

Suffolk officials and police are informing the public how to practice firework safety for the Fourth of July holiday. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (July 2, 2012)

Suffolk County officials want residents to have fun celebrating America's birthday Wednesday, but not at the expense of putting lives in danger -- either through use of illegal fireworks or getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

"The Fourth of July is a holiday that should be enjoyed by all of our families and not be destroyed by a trip to the emergency room," County Executive Steve Bellone said at a joint news conference with police officials Monday at the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank.

Bellone was joined by Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, Insp. Stuart Cameron and Capt. Edward Vitale of the Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau.

To emphasize their point, police officials demonstrated what would happen if fireworks exploded inside a car.

They placed a 5-inch firework mortar, the kind used in aerial displays, and two boxes of assorted fireworks in the car's trunk -- a standard buy, police said, for those traveling outside New York to purchase fireworks or pyrotechnics illegally.

Within seconds, the vehicle exploded in flames. Red, white and green whistling sparks flew out as it was consumed by the fire.

"All you need is one spark for that to happen," Cameron said after the demonstration.

A spark could set off the fireworks, for example, if the car were rear-ended, he said. "It's very, very dangerous. I just don't think people recognize that."

Possession, use and sale of fireworks in New York is illegal.

Burke and Bellone cautioned that police are on alert for motorists or boaters under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and anyone dealing with illegal fireworks.

"These are the things that will get you or innocent people killed or seriously injured," Burke said. "Don't become a casualty statistic. Don't become an arrest statistic."

Last year, Suffolk police made 67 driving while under the influence and driving while ability impaired arrests during the July Fourth holiday weekend and one for boating while intoxicated.

As of Sunday, Suffolk Police Marine Bureau officers had made six BWI arrests, including one involving a fatality caused by an allegedly impaired boater, officials said. Six BWI arrests were reported in 2011.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday