Firework, campfire bans could become permanent in Summit County
July 4, 2018
Fireworks and the 4th of July usually come as a package and you don't usually expect one without the other. But that's not the case in Summit County, where Stage 2 fire restrictions now ban the sale and use of all fireworks in the county. However, those restrictions aren't permanent, and local officials are starting to consider whether they should be.
Several readers have expressed concern about local retailers selling fireworks despite the ban, including Murdoch's and Target in Silverthorne. The Summit Daily investigated the issue and found that neither retailer is selling fireworks at the moment — legal or otherwise — under orders of county fire marshals, and have not sold them since the first day of the Buffalo Mountain Fire.
At the Target store located at 715 Blue River Parkway, Benjamin, a store manager, confirmed that several displays of legal fireworks such as sparklers were present at various locations within the store until three weeks ago when the Buffalo Mountain Fire broke out.
Benjamin, who declined to give his last name as he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Silverthorne Target or the Target Corporation, told the Summit Daily that on the first day of the Buffalo Mountain Fire on June 12 a fire marshal visited the store for an inspection. The marshal then ordered the removal of several displays of fireworks deemed illegal under Stage 2 fire hazard emergency restrictions enacted that same day.
"We got rid of all the fireworks displays, even ones that the marshal didn't pick for removal," Benjamin said. "We haven't had them here for weeks."
Summit Fire & EMS Chief Jeff Berino confirmed that marshals told the stores to remove offending displays and that the retailers complied.
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"Both Target and Murdoch's, they were great about it, removed them right away," Berino said.
Until June 12, when Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions went into effect, fireworks were legal to sell in the county and will be legal again when those restrictions are lifted.
"When restrictions are not in effect, stores with permits are allowed to sell allowed fireworks like sparklers," Berino said. "We don't have to like the laws, but we have to follow them."
Berino said that from a firefighter's perspective, even legal fireworks are bad news with the dangerous fuel conditions in the county and surrounding forestland. Berino mentioned a standard handheld sparkler as an example of how dangerous even legal fireworks can be in open forestland.
"Sparklers burn at 1,980 degrees Fahrenheit," Berino said. "The minimum heat required to start a wildfire is 400 degrees. Do the math."
County Commissioner Dan Gibbs said that he was personally against the sale of fireworks of any kind in Summit County. Gibbs went further and suggested the county look at banning open campfires beyond Stage 2 restrictions.
"I think we all need to have a serious conversation about indefinitely banning fireworks and backcountry campfires," Gibbs said. "We have 156,000 acres of dead trees here, it's a tinder box. We might not be a community that can allow open campfires or fireworks anymore."
In an emailed statement, the Target Corporation told the Summit Daily it always follows local regulations when it comes to selling fireworks.
"We always abide by the guidelines and ordinances of local authorities," the statement reads. "So as a result, we do not have fireworks displays, nor are we selling fireworks in our Silverthorne store."
Fire danger is already very high and resources are stretched early in the season trying to put out fires in and around Summit County. It is important that residents do not use fireworks or start fires at all while the Stage 2 ban is in effect. Report illegal fire activity to local authorities.
If county fire restrictions are lowered to Stage 1 or lifted altogether, retail sales of certain fireworks will once again be legal.
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