Garfield County bans fireworks use ahead of Independence Day holiday
The use of fireworks is now prohibited for the three weeks leading up to the July Fourth holiday in unincorporated parts of Garfield County, and local fire districts may soon follow suit.
Garfield County commissioners on Monday expanded the county’s existing year-round ban on fireworks use to include the otherwise exempt period from June 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.
Chris Bornholdt, emergency manager for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, said during the Monday morning commissioners meeting that broader fire restrictions are very likely following a weekly Tuesday meeting between area fire and public lands agencies.
“It is drying out quickly, and the conditions are there,” Bornholdt said. “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.
Ray Cordova, who operates the seasonal fireworks stand at the intersection of Cattle Creek and Colorado Highway 82 near Carbondale, objected to the 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.
Meanwhile, area firefighting agencies and emergency management officials are set to consider possible fire restrictions at the Tuesday meeting where the current fire conditions and available resources are to be discussed, Bornholdt said.
Agencies, including local fire districts, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service could in the coming days or weeks enact Stage 1 fire restrictions, prohibiting campfires, charcoal grills and other open burning, or even Stage 2 restrictions, which prohibits the use of fireworks and other incendiary devices.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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