Ron Matlock and his family operate fireworks stands which are open for business Dec. 26 on Texas 29 East in Burnet County and on FM 1431 West in Llano County. File Photo
CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
KINGSLAND — As residents prepare to ring in the New Year with fireworks, Melanie Capone shared a lesson she learned early in life about playing with them.
“I was probably 10 or so. I was out at the ranch with my friends, and we decided we were going to throw the little firecrackers at the same time,” said Capone, a Kingsland resident, who has a 7-year-old and an 11-month-old child. “We were lighting them at the same time. Mine had lit and hers didn’t. I waited. When I went to throw it, it exploded really close to my hand, singed my finger.”
Capone is not alone in such mishaps. Thousands are reported each year throughout the state.
According to the Texas Trauma Coordinators (statewide registered trauma nurses):
• 45 percent of fireworks injuries are children younger than 14;
• 31 percent of injuries involve hands and fingers;
• 25 percent of injuries involve eyes with 20 percent happening to the head and face;
• more than 50 percent of injuries are burns.
Of her oldest child, Capone said, “He doesn’t play with fireworks at all. I let him set off the little smoke bombs; things that don’t blow up or have dynamite in them.”
Those who sell fireworks hear some of the more harrowing tales of injuries caused by them.
Fireworks stand owner/operator Ron Matlock warns against potential hazards caused by those who fail to take some common sense precautions.
“That would be artillery shells,” he said of one of his most popular items. “They go up 100-plus feet. They fill the sky. This launcher load is very powerful. You definitely don’t want your face to be around that tube when it shoots off.”
He also recommended stabilizing the launch tube to prevent it from tipping over.
“You have to be careful when you have kids around that they’re not going to be around it when it launches,” he advised.
The Matlock family has operated from one to two stands in Burnet and Llano counties for the past several years.
For the current holiday season, the family will have a stand at the intersection of RR 1431 and Campa Pajama. A second stand is located at 4505 Texas 29 between Bertram and Burnet.
Matlock is not only familiar with safety procedures, but what works well and what can get sellers into legal trouble.
“You cannot legally sell to anybody under 12 unless they’re with an adult,” he said. “You cannot legally sell to someone you perceive as intoxicated.”
Other rules involve cities including Burnet, Granite Shoals and Marble Falls. While municipalities prohibit the sale and use of fireworks, unincorporated areas including communities of Kingsland and Spicewood have no rules or ordinances involving fireworks.
The state — with approval by individual counties — allows for the sale of fireworks for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season to begin on Dec. 20.
The Matlock family stands will be open from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1
“Fireworks have been a New Year’s tradition forever,” he said. “It’s the fact that you’re starting anew, the year, and you want to bring attention to the fact that we’re getting a fresh clean slate here. We really want to celebrate. We want some visual affects, which bring some cheer.”
The following is a list of safety tips by Texas Trauma Coordinators for fireworks use:
• Always have water handy, either a bucket or water hose.
• A responsible adult should supervise all fireworks activities.
• Only use fireworks as intended, don’t try to alter or combine them.
• Never re-light a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
• Never hold, or light, more than one sparkler at a time.
• Never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers.
• Never experiment or make your own fireworks.
• Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
• Never have any part of the body over the firework.
• Never ignite aerial fireworks near, or, below a tree, overhead wires, or anything that may obstruct the flight.
• Don’t light flying fireworks in heavy wind.
• Never ignite aerial fireworks near an opening such as doors or windows.
• Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.
• Loose clothing can very easily catch fire and should not be work near fireworks.
• Light the tip of each firework at arm’s length. If one doesn’t go off, don’t go back to it – it could still be live and go off unexpectedly.
• Observe local laws and use common sense.