Several fires over holiday weekend - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Several fires over holiday weekend

Several fires over holiday weekend

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By: Jenn Schanz 

Fourth of July just wouldn't be complete without the big booms and bright lights. But fireworks also pose a big danger for fire departments.

On average, Lincoln Fire and Rescue crews get between 40 and 60 calls in a 24–hour period. This year's Fourth of July, they got 81 calls, at least 20 of them were fires. But unlike previous years, they weren't grass or bush fires.

"This one has been kind of an unusual year. We had, actually eight structure fire," says Battalion Chief Derald Murrell of Lincoln Fire and Rescue. 

The fires are still being investigated, but Murrel says most of them were likely firework–related.

One near north 27th and Folkways left a family without a home after a firework started a fire underneath their apartment balcony and quickly spread. Another, at a home near Wilderness Ridge, was caused by a flying lantern.

I spoke to Senator Russ Karpisek over the phone. He pushed to get the lanterns banned in 2013.

"They are very pretty. I'll admit, when they're floating, they're very pretty. But it just seems pretty dangerous when you just have lit fire floating across the sky and you can't guide where it's going," he says. 

The bill didn't pass, but fire officials recognize the danger the lanterns pose.

"They go up, they get in the breeze, they fly blocks and blocks and blocks away from where they were lit, and they get caught in trees, they get caught in roofs," says Murrell. 

Fortunately, no one was hurt in any of the holiday fires. Exact estimates are still being determined, but Murrell says the damage was substantial.

Airport officials also voiced concern this holiday weekend, stating that lanterns could get sucked in plane engines, or liter the runway. Sen. Karpisek is termed out and won't be returning next legislative session, but hopes to see more measures taken to ban the lanterns.

As of last year, only seven states have legislative bans on the lanterns. Nebraska is one of six states with some action taken at the local level, but none state-wide. 

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