Expect "aggressive response’ on Fourth, sheriff says | SummitDaily.com

Expect "aggressive response’ on Fourth, sheriff says

by Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – The statewide ban on fires and fireworks, as well as the publicity surrounding Colorado wildfires, should be enough to put Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales at ease about the Fourth of July and possible danger.

But then there’s the evidence to the contrary.

“I hear Wyoming fireworks sales are up 20 percent this year,” Morales said Tuesday. “I wonder where they’re going.”

Morales and other managers of emergency services organizations are gearing up for what typically is one of the busiest holidays for public safety personnel. Supervisors and sergeants are double- and triple-staffing police, firefighters and dispatchers in anticipation of illegal fireworks calls, noise complaints and other incidents associated with the Fourth of July holiday.

Morales said the Sheriff’s Office will have more than double the usual number of deputies on duty Thursday. The sheriff said the state’s wildfire emergencies are “drawing enormous resources away from local agencies” and “we have to aggressively enforce (the fire ban) because of the situation.”

“It’s not so much a fear of fireworks, but people with fireworks,” Morales said. “Even with all the publicity, I still think we’ll have some problems. I love fireworks, everybody does – it’s pretty ingrained in our culture. But some people demonstrate a lack of judgment.”

Most firefighters with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue are on duty on the Fourth of July because the the department holds a fund-raising pancake breakfast each year on that day, said public information officer Lt. Mike Roll. After the breakfast this year, Roll said, two regular fire engine crews and a wildland fire engine crew will remain on duty.

Roll said firefighters aren’t sure what to expect this year, with the holiday falling on a Thursday. But with the dry conditions, he said, “it doesn’t really matter what day it is.”

The Fourth of July also is a busy time for 911 dispatchers in Summit County Communications. Between 5 p.m. and midnight on the holiday in 2001, operators answered more than 90 calls – more than one call every five minutes. Concerned citizens call to report illegal fireworks, noise and accidents, but also bog down operators with questions about parade times and other non-emergency issues. Dispatch training supervisor Chris Benson said she hopes people will look in the newspapers and listen to radio stations for that information and leave the emergency lines open.

Benson said the communications center will be triple-staffed all day and she expects plenty of calls about fireworks.

“I think people here will be vigilant and careful,” Benson said. “They’re concerned because this is their home ground.”

Sheriff Morales encourages residents to be on the watch for fire ban violations and notify authorities of violations. Morales said early notification makes quicker response possible.

“Hopefully people will take action on their own and tell their neighbors if they see a violation,” he said. “Nobody likes to drop a dime on anybody, but we have a serious situation here. Everybody’s got to do their part.”

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

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