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Published June 30, 2013, 11:40 PM

Summer safety: Take added precautions when enjoying seasonal activities

FARGO – Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t easy. The season brings sun and fun, but hot-weather activities present some potential dangers.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

FARGO – Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t easy.

The season brings sun and fun, but hot-weather activities present some potential dangers.

Summer safety precautions are often overlooked because they’re only applicable once a year, often for a short period of time, says Fire Capt. Ryan Viergutz.

Stay out in the sun too long, and you could get heat exhaustion. Place your deck grill too close to the siding, and you could ignite a fire. Put your kids on bikes without proper instruction, and they could get hurt.

But follow city guidelines and use common sense, and you and your family can enjoy the benefits of the outdoors.

Fireworks

First off, fireworks are illegal to have, sell or use within Fargo city limits. And that includes sparklers.

Embers and projectiles from fireworks can settle in rain gutters, tree lines and fences, which collect easily ignited materials like dead leaves, dried grasses and trash.

Police can enforce the law with a verbal warning or a written citation that carries a mandatory court appearance and a $100 fine.

Still, year after year, authorities receive fireworks-related calls, usually noise complaints but sometimes for injuries.

“We do see people trying to use fireworks regardless of the code,” Viergutz says.

The National Fire Protection Association says legal or not, fireworks are too risky for amateurs.

If you can’t have the Fourth without fireworks, check out Bonanzaville’s or MSUM’s display as part of their celebrations.

Recreational fires

Recreational fires, like backyard fires, fires in fire pits and bonfires, are legal in Fargo, but there are guidelines to follow.

• Fires can’t be within 25 feet of any structure or other combustible material unless they’re in an approved container, like a screened appliance.

• Even in an approved container, fires must be at least 15 feet from structures.

• Fires can’t be more than 3 feet in diameter and must be 2 feet or less in height.

• A fire extinguisher or garden hose must be readily available, and fires must be attended until extinguished.

• Don’t burn anything other than a good dry wood.

“Most people follow the guidelines, but we do get complaints every once in a while,” usually about noise or smoke, Viergutz says.

You need a permit to have a bonfire, so don’t plan that party until you pay the $20 fee and apply in person at Fire Station One, 637 NP Ave., Fargo. For questions, call (701) 241-1540.

All open burning is banned when the fire index is at the extreme level. Check the index at www.crh.noaa.gov/bis/?n=fire_weather_public.

Grilling

During the summer months, more residents fire up their grills, which also means more fire calls.

Viergutz says there are two primary causes of grill-related fires.

One, the grill is too close to the building.

“Most homes in this area have vinyl siding, which is flammable and melts, so even if the grill’s within a foot or two of the siding, it can be hot enough to melt it and maybe catch fire,” he says.

He recommends placing the grill at least 3 feet away.

Two, ashes from a charcoal grill can drift down to dead leaves and dried grasses below.

“The material under there is very dry and can catch fire pretty readily,” Viergutz says.

Fix the problem with a nonflammable grill mat, which comes with some models.

Sun exposure

When it comes to sun exposure, common sense and time-tested advice applies.

Larry Anenson, director of health protection and promotion for Fargo Cass Public Health, breaks it down.

• Avoid sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., especially for infants, children and the elderly.

• Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing, hats and sunglasses.

• Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, though some studies suggest that that’s not high enough.

• Choose sunscreen based on activity, i.e., wear waterproof if you’re going swimming, and reapply afterward.

• Drink plenty of fluids.

• When it gets really hot, spend the day at the mall or the movies instead.

Sunburns are considered first-degree burns, Anenson says, but they can be worse, and they often go hand in hand with heat exhaustion, which can turn into heat stroke.

According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

• Cool, moist skin with goose bumps

• Heavy sweating

• Faintness

• Dizziness

• Fatigue

• Weak, rapid pulse

• Low blood pressure

• Muscle cramps

• Nausea

• Headache

If you think you might have heat exhaustion, stop all activity and rest, move to a cooler place, and drink cool water or sports drinks.

And if that doesn’t help, seek medical attention.

Bicycling

Clear weather means more cyclists – both adults and children – on the road.

Tom Smith recalls having free reign of his neighborhood as a kid on a bike.

“By the time myself and my peers were 8 or 9, our ‘freedom machines’ were taking us all around town,” says the Great Northern Bicycle Co. manager.

He urges parents to teach their children the rules of the road as soon as they’re old enough to venture beyond their own block.

He says kids should learn where to ride on the road, with traffic, yield, stop and signal turns.

And make sure they wear a helmet, no matter how “uncool” it may be.

“It’s clear that helmets provide a greater margin of safety, so the sooner we can get kids accustomed to them, the better,” Smith says.

For more on children’s bicycling safety, check out www.safekids.org/tip/bike-safety-tips.

Bugs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 18, there haven’t been any reported cases of West Nile virus in North Dakota or Minnesota.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect against it.

Best bets for prevention against West Nile, along with Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ticks, are protective clothing and insect repellent.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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