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It would be easy to say this Fourth of July is special, but for most Americans, every Independence Day is special. Or it should be.

Today, and every July 4 for nearly the past two and a half centuries, is the day America celebrates its birthday. It was on this day in 1776 that this nation officially declared its independence from British rule, two days after the actual Declaration of Independence was signed by the Continental Congress. What had been the original 13 colonies became the United States of America.

That independent streak was solidified in the American Revolution.

The true import of this day may be traced to the fact that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as U.S. presidents, died on the same day — July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Another Founding Father and later president, James Monroe, also died on July 4 five years later. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th U.S. president, was born on July 4, 1872.

July 4 didn’t become a paid federal holiday until 1941, although Independence Day had been an unpaid national holiday since 1870.

Things have changed in America, a lot. Although most Americans will kick back today, perhaps enjoy a backyard barbecue before heading off with family and friends to the nearest stadium or safe public venue to watch a traditional fireworks show, millions more will be on the job, providing the goods and services that keep this nation’s economy running strong.

Unfortunately, this also is one of the busiest days of the year at local hospital emergency rooms, whose waiting areas will likely be filled with folks suffering from fireworks mishaps and traffic accident injuries.

The celebrations today too often turn into a nightmare because of improper use of fireworks. The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that about 13,000 fireworks-related injuries are treated in ERs on July 4. There have been an average of seven fireworks-related deaths a year since 2002.

With that in mind, here’s a valuable piece of advice for parents of young children — even the relatively benign sparkler can reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and burns really hurt.

That’s one of the main reasons most experts recommend that you leave the fireworks demonstrations to pros. Even as California faces a severe wildfire threat, many communities have fireworks shows, handled by professionals who know what they’re doing. Just check the newspaper for times and locations, and skip the emergency room experience.

Household pets are not fond of fireworks. Keep your pooch inside tonight, and provide a safe haven somewhere in the house, because he or she may dash when the first aerial bomb explodes.

When the big fireworks show is over, and everyone is heading home, drivers need to be acutely aware that today is statistically the deadliest day to be on the streets and highways. It’s difficult to imagine, but year in and year out, the Fourth of July results in more highway crash fatalities than New Year’s Eve.

Too much celebration — as in an over abundance of booze — is the root cause of the highway mayhem. And you can be sure that local police, sheriff’s deputies and the California Highway Patrol will be out tonight, in full force.

We don’t mean to rain on the Independence Day parade. Everyone should have a really terrific Fourth of July. But we do want to keep you around to enjoy this fine newspaper — by keeping yourself and loved ones safe.

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