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Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Breaks Down Legal & Illegal Fireworks, Offers Safety Tips For July 4th

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – There's a simple rule of thumb, according to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Captain Ron Tetreault, to determine the difference between a legal firework and an illegal one.

"If it launches or explodes or if you have to sign a piece of paper for it, you're purchasing an illegal firework," Tetreault told CBS4 News.

CBS4 News followed Tetreault briefly Monday as they inspected a roadside fireworks stand, Fireworks Lady, Inc. Tetreault and Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas want to make sure that what they're selling here and at the other roadside fireworks stands in Fort Lauderdale are on the state of Florida's approved list.

"We haven't found any that don't comply yet," Lucas said. "Some of the vendors have stuff that doesn't comply and they've taken it off their shelf."

But Lucas says that some of the approved sparklers, with colorful names like "Torpedo", "Celebration", "Star light" and "Happy Panda" can burn extremely hot.

"They go up to 2,000 degrees," Lucas said. "They can burn a child. They can cause severe 2nd-degree burns."

That's why Lucas preaches caution when setting off sparklers or fireworks. He says there are several things you must do:

Do not let children play with fireworks or sparklers.

Closely supervise everyone coming into contact with fireworks or sparklers.

Always have a bucket of water nearby if lighting fireworks or sparklers.

Don't try to re-light a firework or sparkler that fizzes out or doesn't explode.

Leave fireworks to the professionals — visit a city or county-sponsored show.

At a demonstration Monday in Broward, shouts of "Fire in the hole" were heard as fire rescue crews showed the power of illegal fireworks or improperly used sparklers on mannequins and melons. They, too, warn of the massive amount of injuries like loss of fingers, toes or limbs or serious burns that can occur from illegal fireworks.

"We should treat these commercial fireworks as weapons because they could kill you," said Brandon Ball, bomb technician with the Florida Bureau of Fire & Arsons Investigations.

Ball said every year they see unnecessary injuries and fires set because of improper use of fireworks and sparklers. Estimates are that nearly 10,000 people are injured each year from fireworks.

"It looks like carnage sometimes," he said. "When an injury happens, particularly to juveniles, it results in sometimes lost appendages, lost fingers, injuries to eyes, burn injuries to face."

Several Fire Marshal's told CBS 4 News that fireworks that explode and are sold legally at some stores are to be used for agricultural or other legitimate purposes, not for home use.

Scot Haslett manages the Fireworks Lady stand in Fort Lauderdale. He said they get asked occasionally for sticks of dynamite or M-80's but they don't and won't sell illegal items. For them, it's about selling items for celebrations and safety.

"Common sense when you use it," he explained. "Don't hold it in your hand and light it but it's basically safe stuff if you use it correctly."

Fort Lauderdale and the city of Hollywood are preparing and inspecting large barges of fireworks for their professional shows on the 4th.

The estimates are the shows cost north of $80,000 to present. The barges are being protected around the clock by police marine units and fire crews.

For a list of State Fire Marshall-approved sparklers, click here.

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