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Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Brownsville Herald - Officials: Celebrate with caution

The Brownsville Herald - Online Edition
July 3, 2004 — With the Fourth of July weekend here, many people methodically believe celebrating the holiday wouldn’t be complete without fireworks.

But along with firework use comes a string of regulations.

And since the importation of any fireworks from Mexico is restricted by federal laws, U.S. Customs and Border Protection or CBP agents are stepping up efforts to seize the flow of the dangerous contraband across the United States-Mexico border, officials said.

“Because of the Fourth of July celebration, CBP agents at the port of entry are taking a closer look at all modes of traffic,” CBP spokesman Rick Pauza said Friday, noting security at local ports of entry remains at code yellow — the third-highest form of security alert.

“Our emphasis is on anti-terrorist operations. We are still seizing drugs and also because of celebration fireworks. But we are keeping our eyes peeled for terrorists or weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Despite the confiscation of fireworks at the four international ports of entry in Cameron County, Pauza said sometimes the travelers don’t understand that it is illegal to cross them.

Those caught “innocently” trying to bring the devices into the U.S. face no penalty, Pauza said. But they will have to relinquish their fireworks or return them to Mexico.

Federal officials at the ports of entry are not alone in issuing warnings about fireworks. The Brownsville Fire Department said that setting off fireworks within the city limits could lead to residents getting fined if caught.

“They’re not permitted to be fired within the city limits,” said Brownsville Fire Chief Lenny Perez.

He said Brownsville police will have teams patrolling the city during the three-day weekend celebration watching for people firing the illegal explosives. If found in violation, individuals would be issued a citation and the fireworks will be confiscated. They could also face fines up to $300.

According to a 2003 U.S Consumers Product Safety report, fireworks-related injuries sent 9,300 people to the emergency room in 2003. The number has decreased during the past 10 years. An average of 12,500 injuries was reported from 1992 to 1994, statistics show.

In addition, six fireworks-related deaths were reported in 2003, with two of the deaths caused by fires started by fireworks.

The reports indicate that the deaths could have been avoided if consumers had practiced proper fireworks safety and kept a bucket of water handy.

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