Area police pursue zero tolerance on ﬁreworks
July 2, 2012
ASPEN – Police officers in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley say they don’t intend to be lenient if they catch anyone shooting off fireworks of any kind these days.
And people are urged to notify authorities if they spot anyone using fireworks or otherwise violating a burn ban that blankets the entire state.
With the Fourth of July approaching and wildfire danger off the charts, local law enforcement agencies say they will pursue a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fireworks. Municipal pyrotechnic displays have already been canceled.
A 17-year-old in Glenwood Springs learned just last week that the police are serious and the fire danger is extreme. He faces a charge of fourth-degree arson, along with other, unrelated charges after a sparkler set off a brush fire that quickly scorched two acres and threatened homes before firefighters were able to get it under control.
“I think zero tolerance is kind of where we’re at, starting now,” Snowmass Village Police Chief Art Smythe said Friday. “Those that fly are particularly dangerous, but even the so-called legal fireworks would be in violation of the fire ban.”
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has notified upper valley law enforcement agencies that citations should be written for violation of a state law, as the governor has enacted a statewide burn ban in addition to the various restrictions put in place by county governments, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
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The citation will result in an automatic summons to appear before a judge in county court, according to Blair Weyer, Aspen Police Department spokeswoman. Violators won’t be able to simply pay a fine and be done with it.
And, while officers have discretion over whether to issue a citation when they encounter a violation, current fire conditions don’t bode well for getting a break from a cop.
“This year, considering the conditions and what’s been going on in the state, I think that we’re not going to issue warnings,” said Sgt. Penny Paxton of the Basalt Police Department.
In Eagle County, which includes a slice of the mid-Roaring Fork Valley, encompassing part of the Fryingpan Valley, El Jebel and Missouri Heights, the district attorney announced recently that his office won’t offer plea bargains to individuals caught violating burn restrictions, promising instead to take a hard line with violators.
At present, open flames are prohibited, including campfires at developed campgrounds. The fire ban covers charcoal grills, chimineas, smoking in most outdoor areas and fireworks of any kind.
Those who spot what they believe is a violation should contact authorities.
“If they see smoke or any kind of open flame, people using fireworks, by all means, give us a call,” Weyer said.
“If someone were to use fireworks, I think law enforcement would get a call pretty quickly,” Smythe added.