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Stay Safe During Independence Weekend

Many Americans will celebrate the nation’s 239th birthday this weekend with two holiday staples: cookouts and fireworks. Officials are urging everyone to use caution around both.

Dorothy Lee with the Escambia County Extension Service says keeping it safe at that summer cookout begins with the basics.

“Making sure that your hands are clean, all utensils are clean, cooking surfaces are clean,” said Lee. “Bacteria multiplies rapidly at room temperature, and most food-borne illness-causing bacteria cannot grow at temperatures below 40 degrees, or above 140 degrees.”

When preparing raw food, Lee says to thaw out meats in the refrigerator. If possible, keep a separate cutting board just for the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and fish. Afterward, be sure to wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot soapy water, and then sanitize with a solution of household bleach and water. When cooking meats on the grill, Lee says to remember the safe minimum internal temperatures for each.

“Ground beef needs to be cooked to at least 160 degrees,” Lee said. “Chops and any type of pork, beef, veal, lamb, and poultry around 165 degrees. With steaks, 145 degrees is acceptable.”

After the big meal, many Americans both at home and on the road will celebrate with fireworks. Pensacola Fire Marshal David Allen says those who plan to set off a few need to use extreme caution. Among the basic safety measures is keeping in mind first and foremost: that there’s no such thing as a “safe” firework.

“And even the sparklers….need to have adult supervision,” said Allen. “I always strongly recommend that people have some source to extinguish the fire if they need to do that. A hose, bucket of water or fire extinguisher readily available. And stay away from grass, paper, anything like that.”

Other advice: use fireworks outdoors only; obey local laws, wear safety glasses if you’re the shooter, and don’t drink. Another major tip is do not try to re-light a dud. Instead, leave it alone for about 20 minutes and to make sure it doesn’t explode, and then soak it in a bucket of water.

While sparklers and so-called “screamers” are legal in Florida, anything that explodes or flies, bottle rockets, Roman candles and the like, are not. Their use is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy fireworks, says Allen, is to leave it to the pros, and attend one of the many fireworks displays on tap for the July 4 weekend. For the 26th year, local Sertoma clubs are hosting the largest Fireworks display on the Gulf Coast over Pensacola Bay, nine o’clock Saturday night at Seville Square.