The beginning of summer heralds, among other things, fireworks and dry conditions - a potentially dangerous combination.
Today is the first day of summer, but hot, dry weather has persisted throughout late spring.
And, although today marks the first day fireworks sales are legal in Missouri, colorful tents and temporary stands have been springing up in recent weeks.
The dry, breezy weather conditions have prompted State Fire Marshal Randy Cole to urge extra caution this year.
"The use of fireworks by individuals risks injury to the user and onlookers as well as well as posing a fire hazard for surrounding structures," Cole advised. "This year's extremely dry conditions elevate the risk that even small sparks created by consumer fireworks can lead to grass and brush fires, which can rapidly spread - posing a risk of wildland and structure fires."
Statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration support his warning.
May 2012 was one of the driest Mays on record for Missouri, according to NOAA, which listed the oneyear period from June 2011 to May 2012 as the warmest such period recorded for Missouri.
And data from the National Fire Protection Association proves this is not a hollow warning.
The association's findings show far more fires are reported nationwide on a typical Independence Day than on any other day of the year, with fireworks accounting for more than half of those fires.
Specifically, the group found fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires in 2010, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and 14,100 outside and other fires. Those blazes resulted in eight reported deaths, 60 injuries and about $36 million in direct property damage.
As an alternative to handling fireworks, Cole suggests attending public displays. "The most exciting and entertaining fireworks displays are always at large public shows," he said.
Jefferson City again is planning a spectacular fireworks show on July 4. Enjoy the Salute to America and avoid the risks of personal injury or fire.