Pine Bluff Fire Chief Shauwn Howell hopes the city’s residents will enjoy their Independence Day weekend, but wants them to remember that it’s unlawful for unlicensed individuals to discharge fireworks here.
Speaking during Monday afternoon’s meeting of the city council’s public safety committee, Howell said citizens interested in fireworks can mark Thursday’s Fourth of July celebration by attending sanctioned events, including the city’s family outing at Regional Park.
Howell said individuals should also take steps to ensure safety while engaging in an old Independence Day tradition — grilling. He distributed the following list of safety tips for grill chefs and their guests.
• Before using a grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the venturi tubes — where the air and gas mix — are not blocked.
• Don’t overfill the propane tank.
• Don’t wear loose clothing while grilling.
• Be careful when using lighter fluid. Don’t add fluid to an already lit fire because the flames can flash back into the container and explode.
• Keep all matches and lighters away from children. Teach your children to immediately report any loose matches or lighters to an adult. Supervise children around outdoor grills.
• Properly dispose of hot coals — douse them with plenty of water and stir them to ensure the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
• Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas, as carbon monoxide could be produced.
• Make sure everyone knows to stop, drop and roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire. Call 911 if a burn warrants serious medical attention.
While relating the fire department’s June statistics to the committee, Howell noted the month had a dramatic increase in the number of arson fires. There were 15 total arson fires, compared with a combined 15 in April and May. In January, February and March, a combined 14 arson cases occurred.
June’s structure arson fires nearly doubled to 11 from May’s six.
Howell said he’s working with the police department in investigating the blazes.
Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks told the committee that robberies, aggravated assaults and commercial burglaries were up slightly in June over May’s numbers by 9-7, 41-35 and 13-11, respectively.
But simple assaults, residential burglaries, thefts and auto thefts were down from the previous month. The respective June and May counts by category were 167 and 182, 86 and 93, 191 and 219, and 14 and 23.
June’s total crimes totaled 526, down from May’s 578.
Hubanks said he expects the declining trend to continue.