ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - New Year's Eve is around the corner, so some people are already stocking up on fireworks, but before you buy, officials are making sure the products you get are safe to use.
The Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal is conducting inspections in Ascension Parish and deputies allowed the media to tag along to show the public what they do.
The popularity of fireworks is undeniable, but they are also one of the most dangerous New Year's traditions. Twice a year, stands selling those colorful, explosive displays open their doors and each one can make hundreds of dollars with every sale.
"Right after the LSU football games, the season closes down, I'm getting ready for fireworks," said Eric "Mongo" Roussel, a fireworks stand owner. "2015, I think, will be one of the biggest years I've seen."
It's up to the state fire marshal's office to make sure that each of the stands is safe for customers. Inspections start days ahead of the holiday and will continue through New Year's Eve when the firework season ends.
The multi-point inspection insures that each retailer has a permit, that there is no smoking or open flames and that no illegal fireworks are being sold. Deputies say there are a few violations they see more often than others.
"Expired fire extinguishers, someone under age selling them - you need someone at least 18 at all times - too close to the street," said Deputy Rhett Termini.
A failed inspection means a stand can be shut down, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the owner.
"You got to have honest people. You got to have people that can think. You got to let people know not to hold stuff in their hands. Put it on the ground and light it and make sure they get away from it," Roussel explained.
After stocking up on the New Year's entertainment, fire officials say it's important to remember that even the smallest bottle rocket can be a destructive explosive. Each year, emergency rooms are flooded with burns and injuries caused by fireworks and that doesn't include property damage. In Louisiana, 33 fires were caused by fireworks just this year. Officials urge using common sense, making sure to follow all instructions and never point fireworks at people, pets or buildings.
"Unless it's a public display, we just tell you to be careful," Termini added.
Officials also noted fireworks are illegal in East Baton Rouge Parish.