Celebrating America's birthday is exciting and fun for people, but it can be especially stressful for pets.
How stressful? More animals get lost on July 4 than any other day of the year, according to Home-Again, a company that sells microchip implants containing pet owner information.
Mark Lawson, division chief with the Merced County Fire Department, said pet owners should keep their animals indoors, and secure areas where pets could escape once the fireworks begin — such as holes in backyard fences.
Other tips include ensuring pets have visible ID tags, keeping them away from flames and taking animals for walks early in the day.
Lawson said this year's extremely high temperatures also factor into pet safety. "Your pets need to stay hydrated, too, because they can be overcome by heat-related illnesses."
This is the first year Merced County has allowed the use and sale of "safe-and-sane" fireworks in its unincorporated areas.
Lawson said the decision by county supervisors was met with enthusiasm by nonprofit agencies who are running the fireworks stands.
"It helps them raise revenue for programs that they didn't have the ability to do so in prior years," Lawson said. "We're hearing the nonprofit groups are extremely excited."
Thus far, 18 fireworks stands have been set up in the county's unincorporated communities. Lawson said the Fire Department didn't limit the number of stands because this was the first year, but will evaluate whether it's necessary to place a cap on them after the holiday.
"We were working under some short time frames, but being that this is the first year, we will go back and do a thorough analysis to make sure we addressed those areas of concern," he said.
Now that fireworks are available in all parts of Merced County, Lawson stressed the importance of safety. He advised users to stay a safe distance from fireworkers to avoid burns and ensure they're using the legal kinds.
"If it doesn't have that stamp on the side that says 'State Fire Marshal,' it's not legal," Lawson said, noting that fines for using illegal fireworks can range up to $1,000. "If it explodes or leaves the ground and goes into the air, it's probably illegal."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.