City outlaws use of all fireworks |

City outlaws use of all fireworks

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen is poised to ban the use of all fireworks and open burning in response to the extreme local fire danger, but it appears charcoal-grilled burgers will be spared.

The City Council unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance on first reading Monday that bans open burning and the use of fireworks, but a slim majority of council members were reluctant to outlaw charcoal grilling as part of the measure.

The ordinance will take effect immediately after passage on second reading, which is scheduled when the council meets today at 4 p.m.

The state already bans fireworks with a few exceptions – those that neither bang nor leave the ground – but the city’s ordinance will go further, prohibiting the use of normally permitted devices that shoot a shower of sparks, according to City Attorney John Worcester.

“Everything down to a sparkler would be banned,” he said.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has already banned open burning in response to the fire danger, but the state ban exempts the use of charcoal and gas grills at private residences.

The proposed city ordinance would have banned the use of charcoal grills, but some council members said such a move was going too far and would be impossible to enforce.

“Are you going to give a ticket to anyone who has a charcoal grill going?” asked Councilman Tim Semrau. He termed the precaution “a little bit over the top.”

Councilman Tony Hershey called the charcoal-grill ban “onerous” and “intrusive,” and he predicted it would hit locals living in employee housing the hardest, since they frequently choose small charcoal grills that can be easily stored over the large, expensive propane-fueled variety.

“It’s like saying we’re all idiots, all the time,” agreed Councilman Tom McCabe, who said he couldn’t support the prohibition on charcoal grilling.

But Councilman Terry Paulson and Mayor Helen Klanderud both voiced support for suspending charcoal-grill use, given the fire danger.

A bear tipping over the embers in a grill left to burn itself out could start a fire, Klanderud said.

“It just takes one. It’s onerous, but it’s also a very serious situation,” she said.

Klanderud said she owns a charcoal grill but has refrained from lighting it up. She said she won’t use it, given the present conditions.

Though the ban on back-yard charcoal grills was stricken from the ordinance, the mayor hinted there would be an opportunity for more debate on the issue before the measure receives final approval today.

The ordinance is slated to remain in effect through Oct. 31.

Local authorities have already canceled Aspen’s traditional July 4 pyrotechnics on Aspen Mountain.

“I hope that everyone will follow the rules,” Klanderud said. “It’s a tinderbox out there.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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