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Lake Lanier remains busiest in state for July 4 BUIs
DUIs increase, fireworks destroy one structure over holiday weekend
Lake Lanier

Though Independence Day is a celebration of freedom, 26 people lost their liberties for boating and driving under the influence during this year’s Fourth of July weekend.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 1 to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, July 4, the Department of Natural Resource’s Law Enforcement Division made 10 boating under the influence arrests and responded to five boating incidents – events with an injury or significant boat damage – though none had injuries, according to Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the agency.

In the same time period, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office made 15 arrests for driving under the influence, one of which occurred Monday morning and caused a minivan to run over the driver’s leg, said Deputy Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the department.

Last year, the sheriff’s office made 12 DUI arrests, a “surprisingly” low number for a three-day holiday weekend, officials said at the time.

Rainwater said in addition to the DUIs, the sheriff’s office made one BUI arrest this year that was not handled by DNR.

Deputies also worked 34 wrecks, down nine from last year’s 45.

“That [decrease] is within reason for a four-day weekend,” Rainwater said. “Enforcement has been really good this year, so maybe that contributed to it, and we did have a lot of deputies out the last four days.”

Last year, DNR officials recorded 10 BUIs, though the number of incidents was greater – eight – with 10 recorded injuries.

In 2015, when July 4 fell on a Saturday, DNR officials gave 11 BUI citations and saw three boating incidents, none of which had injuries.

Lanier has consistently recorded the most July 4 BUIs in the state, with Clarks Hill Lake in Lincoln County netting the second highest number of BUI arrests this year at five.

Across bodies of water statewide, law enforcement officials made 34 BUI arrests, responded to nine boating incidents, saw five boating injuries, one alcohol-involved boating incident and one drowning.

Neither the drowning nor the alcohol-related incident happened on Lanier.

Though no significant injuries were reported in the county over the four-day weekend, the Forsyth County Fire Department responded to one substantial fire in north Forsyth, which Division Chief Jason Shivers said was caused by fireworks.

“Almost precisely at midnight July 4, we responded to a structure fire that is a total loss,” he said. “It was a two-bay garage-style storage building and began as an exterior fire, but the structure was collapsing when we arrived.

“Earlier that evening, the individuals who rented the property had been shooting off fireworks. They cleaned up the fireworks debris and tossed it into a plastic garbage can, but the investigator determined the debris was still hot and when all piled together, it smoldered for some time and finally ignited. By the time the fire was noticed, it was heavily involved.”

Shivers said the blaze caused minor damage to a nearby boat and boat dock due to falling timbers.

A vehicle also received radiant heat damage. No one was injured.

Shivers stressed proper fireworks disposal is key to preventing such fires. 

“If you’re shooting off fireworks, ensure the area is wet down and soaked thoroughly [before discarding] them,” he said. “Had those actions been taken, this fire would have likely been prevented.”

Last year, fireworks caused six blazes in the county, two of which were structure fires. None of those had injuries.