Local officials try to limit fireworks across Ind.
Posted: 06/26/2012 at 2:17 pm
By: Associated Press
About two-thirds of Indiana’s 92 counties have issued open burning bans as of Tuesday after weeks of little or no rainfall, with tinder-dry grass and vegetation contributing to numerous field fires around the state that have kept fire departments busy.
The county commissioners in northern Indiana’s Miami County voted Monday to ban fireworks under a local disaster emergency order. State law allows the use of fireworks on private property from June 29 to July 9 even in areas under open burning bans, but Peru Fire Chief Chris Betzner argued that the county can take the step under the emergency declaration, the Kokomo Tribune reported.
Betzner said the use of fireworks under the current parched conditions poses a serious safety threat.
“To me, we’re splitting hairs,” Betzner said. “If we’re going to have a burn ban and allow fireworks, then why have a burn ban at all? Why have a burn ban if you allow fireworks like sparklers that burn at 1,200 degrees?”
State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson told The Associated Press that the authority of local officials to ban fireworks under emergency declarations is uncertain and hasn’t been challenged in court.
Mike Pennington, Elkhart County’s deputy director of emergency management, told commissioners in that northern Indiana county Monday that he’d like to have all fireworks prohibited except organized displays with firefighters on hand, The Goshen News reported.
But Elkhart County attorney Craig Buche said he didn’t believe the county had that legal authority.
“The organized fireworks displays are something that the local departments can regulate or can stop, because those are done by permit,” Buche said. “The personal use is a little uncertain.”
The National Weather Service said Tuesday that much of Indiana faces an elevated fire risk for the rest of this week with increasingly dry conditions, temperatures climbing into the 90s and gusty afternoon winds expected.
The weather service hasn’t recorded measurable rainfall at Indianapolis International Airport since June 4. The city’s rainfall at 0.05 of an inch for the month threatens to break the record dryness for June of 0.36 inches set in 1988.
The fire department in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers has responded to more than 50 grass and mulch blazes this month, compared to only one such fire during that time last year. Some of those fires have been blamed on discarded cigarettes, but fireworks are also a worry, said Ron Lipps, the town’s deputy fire marshal.
“As dry as it is, if we have this wind like we do, it’s going to be real easy for something to go wrong with the fireworks in your backyard,” Lipps told WRTV.
The Miami County commissioners said they would review the county’s restrictions on Monday ahead of July Fourth activities.
“From a safety standpoint, it’s not worth the risk right now,” Commissioner Josh Francis said.