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Have fun, but be safe this holiday weekend

The weather forecast for the Fourth of July weekend looks promising, with only chances of rain possible, which in Otter Tail County means it could actually be sunny and beautiful (temps should be in the mid-70s, so not too hot). We hope you enjoy the long weekend of Independence Day celebrations, but exercise caution.

We are blessed to live in the middle of more than 1,000 lakes, but it also requires us to be careful – around fireworks, the water and on our highways -- and responsible when moving watercraft from one lake to another to avoid the spread of invasive species.

Be sure you know the fireworks that are legal in Minnesota, and be especially careful using any around children. Please don’t take chances with your little ones, it’s better to error on the side of caution when they are around.

Also, if they are playing in the water, please watch them carefully. When riding in a boat, use Coast Guard-approved life jackets. And don’t drink and operate any type of vehicle.

In the 18 lake drownings last year, only two victims were wearing life jackets and seven reports listed alcohol as a factor in the drowning, according to the Department of Natural Resources.  Alcohol and driving, whether it be a watercraft or a land vehicle, simply don’t mix. Be sure to have a designated driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

Finally, be responsible in cleaning and draining your boat, and properly disposing of old bait before when taking your boat from the lake. At this time, only five percent of Minnesota waters are infected with invasive species. Being responsible about removal of identified invasives will ensure the enjoyment of our natural assets for future generations. What a great legacy to leave our grandchildren.

It is our hope that your Fourth of July celebrations won’t be marred by tragedy. A few minutes of precaution can save a lifetime of hurt. Have fun, but be safe.