Celebrating America’s Independence almost always involves fireworks and grilling, and a pool or lake is usually not far behind. But it is important to observe the proper safety rules relating to all of these and other activities.

According to a press release from the U.S. Forestry Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission, revelers should avoid launching fireworks near “dry grass, leaves or other combustible materials. Thoroughly soak the area with water where fireworks are to be discharged and have a garden hose or other source of water nearby. National Forest visitors are reminded to ensure that fires built in developed recreation sites are extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving. Fireworks are not to be discharged at any developed recreation site or throughout the National Forests in Alabama.”

The American Red Cross and the Talladega Fire Department also provide a handy list of do’s and don’ts for safe fireworks handling. These include reading all safety instructions, choosing a wide open space where nothing can burn, keeping bystanders at a safe distance and not allowing children to handle fireworks or to get too close. They also recommend keeping a garden hose handy.

“Use a long-tipped lighter or fireplace match to light fireworks, leave failed fireworks alone (and) do not use fireworks under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the release says. “Light one firework at a time and move quickly.”

For duds, leave them alone for at least 20 minutes and then soak them in a pail of water.

Also, have a fully-stocked first aid kit available, do not carry fireworks in your pockets and never let children handle sparklers. “The ignited tip can reach 1,200 degrees F,” the release says.

“Of the more than 9,000 fireworks injuries that occur in the United States each year, about 45 percent are to children 15 and under. Most injuries are to the head and eyes, (and) firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets are the leading contributors.”

The forestry services point out that many of the same rules for fireworks safety also apply to grilling. “Do not dump hot coals in, near or around dry grass, leaves or other flammable materials. Do not bury hot coals. Allow briquettes to cool completely or soak with lots of water, stir and soak again, being sure they are cold to the touch. Never leave a grill unattended.”

The Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs offers similar tips through its campaign, “Turn your attention to fire prevention.”

“On Independence Day in a typical year, far more fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other,” AAFP said in a press release. 

In the event a fire does start, call 911, get to a safe place and wait for local firefighters to respond.

Lastly, it should also be pointed out that celebrating July Fourth by firing guns into the air is a fairly common practice. Keep in mind, however, that a bullet fired into the air will eventually fall back to earth, and can cause damage, injury or even death when it hits or on the way down.