Purchase or use of fireworks not permitted on Okinawa bases
July 1, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Ever since founding father John Adams suggested that succeeding generations of Americans celebrate the nation’s birthday with “bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other,” fireworks on July Fourth have been an American tradition.
But U.S. military officials say members of the military community who buy or shoot fireworks on Okinawa could find themselves in trouble.
Fireworks are sold in Okinawan stores, but military regulations here forbid buying, possessing or using fireworks anywhere on the island.
U.S. Forces Japan spokeswoman Junko Egawa said Thursday that fire and safety regulations bar the use of fireworks on military installations, but local commanders govern whether fireworks can be used off base.
The rules may not be widely known, but Marine Corps Bases Japan Inspector Carl D. Hodges said Tuesday that’s no excuse for breaking them.
A Marine Corps base order bans possession of any pyrotechnics by the Marine military community on Okinawa, Hodges said. This means no Roman candles, bottle rockets or even toy pop snappers, he said.
The order applies to all Marines, sailors, airmen, soldiers, dependents, contractors and other status-of-forces-agreement personnel who fall under the Marine Corps’ jurisdiction, Hodges said.
Marine Corps Bases spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Charles Albrecht said disobeying the order is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Military police don’t patrol off base looking for such infractions, Hodges said, but “we are hoping our folks are abiding by the honor system.”
But the Inspector’s Office does learn of fireworks use through other means, he added. For example: “We definitely know when someone injures himself and is rushed to the hospital.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2005 Fireworks Annual Report, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 10,800 fireworks-related injuries last year, about 60 percent of which occurred between June 18 and July 18.
Hodges said the bottom line is “do not purchase or fire off fireworks yourself.”
He advised those who feel the patriotic urge for fireworks to scan local papers for announcements about displays, such as the Great American Bash at Marek Park on July 4.
Torii Station spokeswoman Dottie Vick said Wednesday the Army has the same ban on fireworks as the other services here: Individuals should’t use them.
Navy spokeswoman Sheryl Y. Kohatsu said Thursday that Navy regulations also forbid any fireworks use — but the Navy doesn’t consider toy paper caps and highway flares to be fireworks.
However, 18th Wing spokesman Johnathan Monroe said Thursday that Kadena Air Base does not have a commander’s order against using fireworks off base, making the Air Force the only service here that permits its servicemembers to use fireworks off base.