Coast Guard reminds boaters not to use flares as part of Fourth of July celebrations

A signal flare burns bright enough to light up the shores during a flare training exercise held at Coast Guard Station Rio Vista U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi Read.

A signal flare burns bright enough to light up the shores during a flare training exercise held at Coast Guard Station Rio Vista U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Levi Read.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard reminds boaters not to use flares as fireworks aboard their vessels as part of Fourth of July celebrations this weekend.

Fireworks can be mistaken as distress signals, 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. “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 but is not limited to firing flares in a non-distress situation and/or saying “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” for a radio check.

The felony offense is punishable by up to ten years in prison, 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.

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