A signal flare burns bright enough to light up the day lit shores of the Sacramento Delta during a flare training exercise held at Coast Guard Station Rio Vista, Friday, April 6, 2012. (Courtesy Photo | Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi Read)

A signal flare burns bright enough to light up the day lit shores of the Sacramento Delta during a flare training exercise held at Coast Guard Station Rio Vista, Friday, April 6, 2012. (Courtesy Photo | Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi Read)

Coast Guard reminds boaters not to use flares as fireworks

It’s punishable by a fine and prison time.

The United States Coast Guard asked boaters not to use flares as fireworks this weekend while celebrating the Fourth of July.

Fireworks can be mistaken as distress signals, the Coast Guard said in a news release,and flares should only be fired to indicate distress in an emergency situation. Lighting flares from vessels will activate a response from Coast Guard personnel, which may pull resources from those in actual distress.

”Every Fourth of July, Coast Guard personnel receive and respond to numerous false flare sighting reports,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lisa Hatland, District 17 command center chief, in a release. “It can be quite challenging to distinguish emergencies from those celebrating, and each report requires considerable man-power to determine exactly where the flare originated and whether or not someone needs help there. With the increase of maritime traffic over the weekend, actual maritime emergencies are highly probable. Firing a flare in a non-emergency situation could result in delayed Coast Guard response to a legitimate maritime emergency in a different location.”

It is a federal felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed. This includes firing flares in a non-distress situation and saying “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” for a radio check.

The felony offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to the Coast Guard, up to a $250,000 criminal fine, a $10,000 civil fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.

• Contact the Juneau Empire newsroom at (907)308-4895.

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