Independence Day can be fun as long as you're careful with the kids, the dogs, and all those fireworks.

The next 24 hours (or more) will be filled with backyard barbecues, house parties, and lots of fireworks. It's a holiday that results in a lot of fun, but also a record number of lost dogs, and plenty of trips to the emergency room for folks who don't know what they're doing with fireworks. So we thought we'd offer a few tips on how to stay safe for the 4th.

We'll start with talking about the dogs. It's a Mayberry R.F.D. kind of picture to think of your pooch wandering from chair to chair at the backyard party, begging scraps from everyone. Fido would sure be happy to take the last bite of everyone's hot dog and maybe sneak a cookie or two. But it's also a risky proposition, since someone is likely to pull out the firecrackers. At the first pop, Fido might just hightail it out of there. More dogs run away on July 4th than any other day of the year. So put the pets in a quiet, cool room, with some background music or a television running, so they can stay calm during the day.

Now, the kids. Every year, I see young kids running around with sparklers. I know they love them and it's fun to see the joy on their faces. But it's also very dangerous. Sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and can burn the kids' skin or other people's hair as they run around in a crowd with them. Now, I'm not against kids using sparklers, but they should be supervised at all times and contained to an area where they can't injure anyone else.

Finally, for the adults, check with your municipality before setting off any fireworks. They're legal in Maine but not in every town. And some towns have specific areas where they're not allowed. Your fun will be ruined when the cops show up and write you a ticket, so stay within the law. It's also important to read the directions and use the fireworks according to factory specifications. While it may seem like a good idea to modify that large explosive, it just isn't. Emergency rooms are packed on the 4th with people who had that same idea.

Be safe and have fun!

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