By Shereen Siewert, Wausau Pilot & Review Publisher
Happy Monday, readers.
As I sat down to write this, I looked at the calendar and realized that a third of the summer is just about over. Without the usual concerts, festivals and other events that we look forward to each year, it doesn’t feel much like the summers we’re used to having in central Wisconsin. I hope you’re finding some joy, despite the lack of organized fun, and I hope you’re finding ways to continue supporting local businesses. Many of them are hurting.
The Fourth of July probably won’t feel much like the holidays we’re used to, either.
First and foremost, there’s still a pandemic unfolding across the country that has brought illness and death. Then, there’s the economic devastation that has resulted. Many Americans have lost jobs or businesses, and those who haven’t are afraid their livelihood could end up slipping away, too.
But when our country’s independence is celebrated next weekend, residents here will have one more thing to add to their list of concerns. They’ll be wondering if a rocket fired off in their neighbor’s yard will land on their roof and set their house ablaze.
Those worries have been amplified by the cancellation of many municipal fireworks displays due to the coronavirus outbreak. For some people, Independence Day just isn’t Independence Day without bombs bursting in air, so they may decide to go out and buy fireworks like bottle rockets and Roman candles, and put on a show for their family and friends.
Fireworks that leave the ground and explode are illegal in Wausau, but that rule is routinely ignored and rarely enforced.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused almost 20,000 fires in 2018, and almost 2,000 of those were structure fires.
The association also reports that, in the same year, emergency rooms from sea to shining sea treated more than 9,000 injuries related to fireworks. One-third of those injuries were to children under the age of 15, and one-third of the injuries were to the eye or other parts of the head.
Last summer, fireworks caused the roof of an elementary school to catch on fire. An 11-year-old boy died in a house fire caused by fireworks. The list goes on and on.
Then, there’s the raw annoyance of having fireworks going off deep into the night, disturbing pets, babies (and their parents), shift workers and veterans with PTSD.
Ideally, fireworks should be left to the professionals. And the big displays will be back next year, presuming a vaccine or herd immunity arrives.
After all, there’s a lot more to the Fourth than just fireworks.
Some city councils have acted, inviting residents to bring their consumer-grade fireworks to football fields or baseball fields to use in a safe distancing space.
That’s a smart move that other municipalities should consider. Rather than having people break the law in an already stressful time on a holiday that dares people to literally play with fire, help them find a way to do a legal activity as safely as possible.
This can be an opportunity for communities to find ways to say yes instead of no. We have had a lot of no for the last three months.
Ask the fire departments for input. Think about making appointments or chalking off parking lots to keep this family distant from that one. There has to be a way to light some fuses, get a few oohs and ahhs and still be safe from both burns and viruses.
There is still a week to go, people. If you want the early complaints to quiet, the best way to do it might be finding a good alternative.
Thanks for being here, readers.