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Law enforcement plan for busy Independence Day weekend

Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 8:33 PM EDT
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THOMAS COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) - Fireworks sales are skyrocketing after most public fireworks shows have been canceled across North Florida and South Georgia. As they do, some law enforcement agencies are preparing for a busy weekend of calls and complaints.

Eric Robertson and the Victory Fellowship Church have been selling fireworks in Thomasville for several years as a fundraiser for its youth group. He says they opened up the pop-up shop three days earlier than they usually do. Since then, they have been slammed every day since.

"A lot of our customers are coming up and they're not just buying small things," Robertson said. "They're buying the big cakes and the mortars and stuff like that, because they want to see a show. That's what we're noticing, a huge increase in sales."

That spike in sales is causing some concern for law enforcement.

Captain Steven Jones with the Thomas County Sheriff's Office says they have been receiving calls for several weeks, something they don't typically see until closer to the holiday.

Jones says, while they don't typically have many issues on the Fourth of July, this year could be different.

“From what we’ve been seeing so far building up to the fourth, I think we’re going to have quite an evening of neighborhood fireworks,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s because so many of the fireworks shows have been canceled or people are just celebrating, they’re finally getting out of their homes and allowed to go out after the virus. I think they’re just taking advantage of it and enjoying it.”

A similar story is seen in the Sunshine State.

Governor DeSantis signed a bill making it legal for Floridians to light fireworks on Independence Day.

"It's probably going to cause us a problem," said Franklin County Sheriff AJ Smith. "We get a lot of complaints of all the houses, everybody doing their own little fireworks demo."

Sheriff Smith says they're expecting record crowds this weekend at St. George Island.

The Tallahassee Fire Department says there are about 19,000 fires nationally caused by fireworks. With more people home, that number could go up.

"We anticipate people trying to do that at home, we encourage them to use the manufacturer specifications when lighting the fireworks," said Staff Captain Robert Clary. "Make sure that you have water on hand to put it out if things go awry."

The fire department says to call 911 if a fire breaks out.

The Thomas County Sheriff’s Office says fireworks are legal until 9:00 p.m., on the holiday that’s pushed back until midnight. Sheriff’s officials say they do check on every complaint they receive.

While officials say they want people to enjoy the holiday, it’s important to stay safe and smart.

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