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Officials Warn of Drought-Related Fire Risk Caused by Fireworks

Grayslake officials encourage people to attend community fireworks display in Central Park instead of trying to set off any illegal fireworks on their own.

With much of northern Illinois in a moderate drought, local fire and emergency management officials are warning residents of the potential risk of fire caused by fireworks. 

The Lake County Fire Chiefs Association and the Lake County Emergency Management Agency are asking residents to avoid using sparklers or illegal personal fireworks over the Fourth of July holiday.

"Any fireworks can produce sparks that can start wildfires when conditions are very dry. A fire that starts is likely to grow and spread rapidly," said Kent McKenzie, Lake County Emergency Management coordinator. "Also, fires of any kind can be dangerous, including campfires, bonfires and even cooking grills when not used safely, so we urge residents to use extreme caution."

Hot and Dry

According to a statement from the Lake County Fire Chiefs Association and Lake County Emergency Management, the unusually dry weather across northeastern Illinois has resulted in an increased risk for wildfires. He added that several significant brush and grass fires have occurred in Lake County over the past week. 

The National Integrated Drought Information System has placed all of Illinois in the moderate drought category .

According to the National Weather Service, the climate station at O'Hare International Airport has measured less than a half inch of rain in June , which is about 2.69 inches less than normal. 

No significant rainfall has been forecast for the next several days, other than a slight chance of thunderstorms each day through July 4 .

"Agencies across the area will be enforcing Illinois laws regarding fireworks, open burning, and hazardous conditions," according to the statement from the fire chiefs and emergency management. "Residents are encouraged to attend professional fireworks displays because they are closely monitored for safety."

Leave it to the Pros

That is exactly the advice given by Grayslake Deputy Fire Chief Greg Formica.

"Go to Central Park instead!" Formica said of the 

The 15th annual Family Picnic and Fireworks is organized by the , Grayslake Area Chamber of Commerce and the . Nearly 6,000 people are expected to attend the community celebration.

"Those are professionals setting off the fireworks. They have insurance and training and experience. They are careful to make sure that they get to do it again next year," he said. 

Formica said the will have a presence at the event on Saturday, but they are not watering down the area in Central Park prior to the fireworks display.

"That is not necessary for safety, but we do have crews that stand by outside the area in case they are needed," Formica said. "Permits are issued for the fireworks company regarding how and where they set off the devices, how they factor in wind conditions and more. They are very safe." 

Formica said he was unaware of any fire starting as a result of a professionally done fireworks display. There are, however, numerous examples of fires starting from people setting off their own fireworks illegally.

"There are countless incidients of people setting off illegal fireworks and starting fires or causing injuries," Formica said. "People get burned by fireworks, or nearby brush or grass or leaves get set on fire from fireworks. That happens all the time."

Plain and simple - go to the and avoid the risks.

"Fireworks at home are illegal because it is unsafe," Formica said. "They can cause damages to people and property. It is not a responsible way to celebrate the holiday."

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