Garfield County bans fireworks use ahead of Independence Day holiday, set to enter Stage 1 fire restrictions Friday
Fireworks use is now prohibited for the final weeks leading up to the July Fourth holiday in unincorporated parts of Garfield County, and broader Stage 1 fire restrictions are coming if not already in place in area jurisdictions.
Garfield County commissioners on Monday expanded the county’s existing year-round ban on fireworks use to include the otherwise exempt period from June 14 through July 5 ahead of and one day beyond Independence Day.
The ban applies both to fireworks that can be purchased legally in Colorado — those that don’t shoot off the ground or explode, such as sparklers, fountains and spinners — as well as illegal aerial fireworks, firecrackers and other explosives often brought in from neighboring states that allow such sales.
The ban does not apply to the sale of legal fireworks in the county.
“It is drying out quickly, and the conditions are there,” said Chris Bornholdt, emergency manager for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. “We don’t need to take any chances with fireworks getting in the brush and starting a big fire for us.”
The fireworks use ban, approved 3-0 by the commissioners, is effective immediately.
Meanwhile, neighboring Pitkin and Eagle counties announced Tuesday that they will be moving to broader Stage 1 fire restrictions on Wednesday, and Garfield County plans to follow suit effective Friday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if shortly after, maybe next week or so, we’ll want to go to (more restrictive) Stage 2,” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Tuesday evening. “It’s pretty damn hot and dry out there.”
Glenwood Springs Stage 1 restrictions will begin concurrently with the county restrictions on Friday, according to a city news release.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to use fire safely and adhere to the fire restrictions,” Glenwood Mayor Jonathan Godes said in the release. “These important restrictions intentionally target ways that help our community reduce fire risk and prevent wildfires during periods of high fire danger.”
Area fire departments, federal land agencies and the Sheriff’s Office meet every Tuesday morning to assess the current fire danger and try to reach consensus on how to proceed, he said.
Land management officials, including the U.S. Forest Service White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management are also expected to implement their own restrictions later in the week, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
The fire restrictions, per local fire management officials, apply to the following persons and activities:
A. Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire except within a developed recreation site, or improved site to include a fire ring/pit.
B. Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle, building or area cleared of all combustible materials.
C. Operating or using an internal or external combustion engine without an approved spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order meeting either the U.S. Forest Service standards or appropriate Society of Automotive Engineers recommended practices.
D. Use of any personal fireworks or explosive requiring fuses or blasting caps, including exploding targets, as defined by Colorado Revised Statute 12-28-101(8).
At the Monday Garfield County commissioners meeting, Ray Cordova, who operates the seasonal fireworks stand at the intersection of Cattle Creek and Colorado Highway 82 near Carbondale, objected to the fireworks use ban.
“I know we look like the bad guys, and we are aware of the conditions. We are not ignorant of it,” Cordova said.
However, he said the legal fireworks he sells are not the likely source of brush fire ignition. Rather, that’s more likely to come from the illegal fireworks that are purchased and imported from Wyoming and other states where such sales are legal, he said.
“Fireworks is something families have been doing to celebrate our independence for ages. People enjoy them,” Cordova said, adding most revelers know to take precautions such as lighting them on a cleared dirt or paved surface and watering down any nearby vegetation.
“The word ‘fire’ in front of ‘works’ gives a bad connotation,” Cordova said. “Maybe if we called them ‘independence works’ it would be different.”
He added that he and his wife, Aurora, use the fireworks sales stand as a fundraiser for their evangelical Christian ministry.
County Commissioner Mike Samson said he agreed with Cordova’s sentiments around personal freedoms. But the worsening drought situation and resulting fire danger can’t be ignored, he said.
“Much of the West is in … exceptional drought,” Samson said. “We have to pay attention to some things here.”
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he generally doesn’t believe in “big-government regulations,” but, “I do believe government needs to make decisions on things that affect the health, safety and welfare of their constituents.
“People are frightened of wildfire, and for good reason,” he said.
Stage 1 restrictions prohibit open burning of trash or ditches, open campfires outside of developed fire pits, charcoal grills, fireworks and other incendiary devices. Fireworks are always illegal to use on Forest Service lands.
The move to Stage 1 restrictions also means that when the county issues a red-flag warning, it automatically moves restrictions up to the next level.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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