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As long as Jeffco’s Stage 1 restrictions are in effect, all firework sales in unincorporated Jeffco will be prohibited too.
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The county's Stage 1 fire restrictions, which went into effect April 20, were lifted on May 25. However, officials anticipate restrictions will be back in place later this summer, although exactly when will depend on climate and fuel conditions.
On May 24, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a ban on all firework sales in South Jeffco, the foothills and other unincorporated areas. Most if not all municipalities in Jeffco already ban firework sales.
But, with the Sheriff's Office lifting the Stage 1 fire restictions on May 25, the firework sales ban's lifted also, as the latter is tied to the former.
However, that also means the firework sale ban goes into effect any time Stage 1 fire restrictions are enacted, and this can only be undone by another Board of County Commissioners resolution, Deputy County Manager Kate Newman stated in an email.
So, if the Stage 1 fire restrictions went back into place by mid-June, as an example, firework sales in unincorporated Jeffco would be prohibited also.
During the May 24 commissioners hearing, local vendors commented how it takes them about a month to set up and prepare their booths, so they need to start now. They also argued that state-authorized fireworks are designed for drier conditions.
However, the commissioners felt the current drought made it too dangerous to risk anything.
“A spark is a spark,” Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper said, adding that a large fire in Jeffco isn’t a matter of if but when.
Residents from Lookout Mountain, Genesee and Evergreen spoke in favor of the ban. Genesee's Nancy Balter stated she didn't want the ban on firework sales to be tied to the Stage 1 fire restrictions, saying the firework sale ban should be in effect regardless of conditions.
Balter and other mountain-area residents described a recent simulation by local fire departments showing how a house fire could spread rapidly under windy conditions, giving residents a very narrow evacuation window.
“We can die in our cars, because there’s only one way in and out," Balter continued.
Sharon Trilk, a former resident of Conifer’s Kings Valley, said current conditions are reminiscent of 2002 and 2012, when Colorado experienced the Hayman, Lower North Fork and Waldo Canyon fires. She also recalled a wildland fire off North Turkey Creek Road that started because young people were igniting fireworks.
“It’s not an outlandish scenario,” she said of a catastrophic fire in west Jeffco. “ … Now is not the time to have and use (fireworks).”
Evergreen’s John Putt added: “(Having fireworks) is just bringing heat to the fuel that’s already there. In Evergreen, Conifer and the foothills, we’re one day away from the perfect match of heat.”
Putt also noted how 90% of wildfires are human-caused, and the Front Range is already at a huge risk of wildfires based on the number of people living in or visiting its forests.
If Jeffco and others ban legal firework sales, then people are more likely to drive to Wyoming or other states to buy illegal, aerial fireworks, they stressed.
Britton Cottrell of TNT Fireworks and his colleagues said they work with the state to promote safety and education. The fireworks they sell are neighborhood friendly, as they don’t explode or launch into the air. People are supposed to light them in their driveways or streets, away from dry fuels, the vendors described.
Olde Glory Fireworks owner Aaron Calkins said, traditionally, firework sales weren’t allowed in Jeffco west of C-470. Thus, they were primarily in the South Jeffco area, away from the wildland urban interface.
Although she ultimately voted to approve it, Commissioner Tracy Kraft-Tharp described her concerns about prohibiting firework sales, saying, “I think people are going to do it anyway.”
However, she and her fellow officials described how Colorado’s fire season is now year-round, and the danger is too great to risk lives and property.
“I remember the days when you could almost set your clock to the afternoon showers,” Commissioner Andy Kerr said. “Those days are certainly gone.”
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