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Consider leaving fireworks to the professionals
Does Mother Nature have your attention yet?
If you were outside a little before 7 p.m. Tuesday, you experienced weather as hot as it's ever been in McCook, 115, which tied with Hill City, Kansas, as the nation's high for the day.
It also bested the previous record of 114, set on July 20, 1932 and tied after the latest turn of the century.
It was our ninth day over 100 degrees, our fourth consecutive day in triple digits and set the 10th record high temperature for the year.
Our sympathy and gratitude go out to those who have to work out in temperatures like those, especially the firefighters who responded to the major fire near Oberlin on Tuesday. We know at least one volunteer was treated for heat exhaustion, and we heard at least one ambulance call for someone who was overcome by the heat.
The fact that the fire was apparently started by an overheated car shows just how precarious our position is in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas. With wheat harvest in full swing, we're 6.43 inches below normal for precipitatio -- it's amazing any work can be done in bone-dry wheatfields without creating a conflagration.
The Red Willow Western Rural Fire Department has issued a ban on burning -- with good reason -- and we shudder to think what the Fourth of July might hold if someone is careless with fireworks.
While the McCook Fire Department is going only so far as asking the public to use fireworks with extreme caution, we think this would be a good year to forego private fireworks altogether. Instead, take in a community fireworks display, where emergency crews will be on hand -- probably even igniting the display! -- in case something goes wrong.
Take the money you might have spent on fireworks and donate it to the local display -- in McCook, that's the McCook Optimists, P.O. Box 272, McCook, NE 69001. While you're at it, perhaps it would be a good idea to make a donation to one of the other charities that depend on fireworks sales for their activities -- and leave the fireworks alone.
If you can't resist shooting fireworks, the National Safety Council and the National Council on Fireworks Safety have some advice:
* Only use legal fireworks purchased locally.
* Use fireworks outdoors only.
* Use launching fireworks in open areas only to ensure they don't land on top of buildings and houses.
* Always have water handy.
* Have a first aid kit ready and waiting.
* Keep young children away from fireworks -- even sparklers!
* Use fireworks the way they were intended. Follow the lighting instructions on the package. Don't combine them.
* Don't try to relight duds.
* Use a "designated shooter" who is alcohol free and wearing safety glasses! Light one device at a time, and keep a safe distance once a firework is lit. Don't light fireworks in containers.
* Don't allow running or horseplay by anyone near fireworks.
* Don't use fireworks while consuming alcoholic beverages.
* Always clean up after you are done celebrating.