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Don’t take fireworks into your own hands

SUMMIT COUNTY – As the Fourth of July draws closer, emergency dispatchers don’t need to look at a calendar to know it. Phone calls – reports of possibly dangerous fireworks, or the noise that results from them – start pouring in to 911.

The calls come day and night, and they increase in frequency as the sun sets, according to Summit County Communications training supervisor Chris Benson.

Last summer, callers had valid concerns. A statewide fire ban made any and all private pyrotechnics exercises illegal. Governor Bill Owens even issued an executive decree banning the sale of fireworks in the state.



This year, with the moderate fire danger relatively lower than last year’s acute concern, officials from dispatchers to firefighters and law enforcement suspect some citizens might be itching to ignite some fun. And worried neighbors will likely call 911.

“They are valid concerns,” Benson said. “We want to know if someone has a genuine worry.”



But the calls can pose problems for dispatchers. A not-so-serious call about excessive noise from fireworks might interrupt a true 911 emergency. Benson said callers are always well-intentioned, and deciding what’s an immediate emergency and what is not can be a tough decision. If what a caller sees isn’t illegal or doing any harm, then it might be best not to call. A non-emergency can be reported to dispatch by calling (970) 668-8600 instead of 911.

When it is a true emergency, law enforcement will respond. Violators of fireworks restrictions were prosecuted last year, said Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales. Morales said zero-tolerance enforcement will continue this year.

“Overall, citizens were extremely compliant last year,” Morales said. “But we get inundated with calls about fireworks and we will pursue them.”

In Colorado, statutes applying to fireworks can be generally summed up as: If it leaves the ground, or if it explodes, it’s illegal unless you’re a licensed pyrotechnics expert putting on a show. Additionally, fireworks are prohibited on public lands – U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state parks and county open spaces, for example.

Legal fireworks include cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, wheels and ground spinners, illuminating torches and colored fire, toy smoke devices, novelties such as party poppers, snake or glow worms, sparklers, cigarette loads, trick matches, explosive auto alarms or other trick noisemakers and chasers, which travel along the ground once lit and emit a whistling sound.

Morales said that, given there isn’t much rain in the forecast between now and Independence Day, he’s relying on individuals to use common sense. The sheriff encouraged citizens to leave fireworks to the professionals and check out the shows to be put on by Frisco and Breckenridge.

“The towns are spending a lot of money to make up for the shows they didn’t have last year,” Morales said. “It’s going to be great. To miss it because you were messing around with your own fireworks, well, that’s your loss.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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