Garfield County to allow fireworks sales before 4th of July
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Customers will be able to buy their legal backyard fireworks in Garfield County during the week leading up to the Fourth of July.
However, they’d better not get caught using them in unincorporated parts of the county or within any municipality that has a fireworks ban in place.
County commissioners, on a 2-1 vote Monday, agreed to temporarily lift the ban on sales of what are considered legal fireworks in Colorado, allowing sparklers, fountains, spinners and the like to be sold at vendor stands outside city limits between June 29 and July 4 only.
But a ban on the use of all fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county will remain in effect under an emergency ordinance enacted by the county in early May due to the continuing drought and high fire danger.
“People should have a right to buy fireworks, but hopefully they will use them responsibly, and hopefully at a better time [than in early July],” Commissioner Mike Samson said in offering up a compromise for seasonal vendor Ray Cordova, who said the ban on fireworks sales would impact his livelihood.
Cordova made the case that, even though he sets up shop along Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs during the lead up to the Fourth of July, people tend to buy fireworks for other occasions throughout the year, such as birthdays and other celebrations.
“I’m not asking for much, I just want to make a living,” Cordova said. “My fireworks stand has been there for a long time, it’s almost an institution.
“I just feel like I’m being targeted as a businessman [with the sales ban],” said Cordova, who added that proceeds from the fireworks sales help support his evangelical Christian ministry.
To make his case, Cordova alluded to the “God factor,” noting that the recent fires in western Garfield County were sparked by lightning, not fireworks, and that the drought is part of God’s punishment for people’s immorality.
“Colorado has become such a liberal state, that I believe God is bringing judgment upon us,” he said, arguing that “legislating fireworks” is just one example.
“What you’re saying is that people are not smart enough to light fireworks in their own back yard,” Cordova said. “If you outlaw fireworks, what about matches and barbecue grills and other things that start fires?”
Commission Chairman John Martin agreed with Samson to ease the ban on fireworks sales for that one week, but still prohibit the use of fireworks due to the dry conditions and severe fire danger.
However, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky disagreed and cast the lone dissenting vote against altering the ordinance.
“As a business person myself, I do feel very strongly about private business and I don’t think government should be interfering,” Jankovsky said.
“But I took and oath to uphold the health, safety and welfare of the people of this county,” he said in support of keeping the fireworks ban in place for both sales and use.
“In this case, I feel like I have to keep that restriction in there,” Jankovsky said, noting that a wildfire below Glenwood Park in late June last year was caused by juveniles playing with sparklers.
Chris Bornholdt, emergency manager for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, advised the commissioners that drought conditions are still severe, “and getting worse by the day.”
The Ward Gulch Fire burning north of Rifle, which was sparked by lightning last Thursday, is one example of how dry it is. As of Monday, the nearly 500-acre fire was 80 percent contained, but had resulted in the evacuation of 12 homes late last week. Firefighting costs are expected to come close to $1.5 million, mostly as a result of air support to attack the fire.
“If this fire had been three weeks from now, we’d be talking about structures burning, that’s how fast things are drying out,” Bornholdt said.
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