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Getting ready for Fourth of July fun

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By Chris Sardelli

For many South Carolinians, it’s not the Fourth of July until something goes boom.

And with most fireworks legal in the state, residents are often on the hunt this time of year for items such as ground spinners, sparklers, mortars and roman candles.

David Smith, manager of Phantom Fireworks in Indian Land, has seen many customers flock to his store searching for items that do everything from making loud noises to shooting colorful sparks. The closer it gets to the Fourth, the more these items fly off the shelves. He said a truck arrives every few days to restock his items.

The most popular items this year include 500 gram repeaters and mortar kits.

The 500 gram fireworks are filled with the maximum amount of powder allowed by federal law, and feature different “breaks,” which are the shell bursts that produce colors and effects.

One of the newest 500 gram fireworks he sells is called the Legion of Fire, which fires shots out of 3-inch tubes up to 275 feet in the air.

Smith said the mortars are “a little louder,” with kits featuring 12 different shells.

“You get a lot of good shots in there, and they put off a lot of color,” Smith said.

In this slow economy, many companies have seen a decline in their number of sales, but Smith said his business has been almost recession-proof.

“People have been celebrating with fireworks for years and years, and our business has been pretty level for weeks,” Smith said. “People are still going to celebrate.”

To entice shoppers, his store is offering a buy one, get one special on many items, including the 500 gram repeaters and mortar kits.

Smith’s store will be open from 8 a.m to midnight every day leading up to the Fourth.

Safety first

According to Prevent Blindness America, an eye safety organization, in 2007 there were more than 6,300 Americans treated in emergency rooms across the country due to fireworks-related injuries around the Fourth.

And 40 percent of those injuries were to children under the age of 15.

Smith urges customers to be careful with the fireworks they buy. He emphasizes wearing protective clothing, such as gloves and goggles, when handling and lighting fireworks.

Smith also stresses the importance of controlling the environment where fireworks will be fired from.

This includes wetting the area down a few hours before lighting fireworks, keeping a hose or bucket of water nearby, bracing items during windy conditions and keeping an eye on the area for 20 to 30 minutes afterward.

“Remember, common sense goes a long way,” Smith said. “And alcohol and fireworks do not mix.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at 416-8416