GOSHEN — Elkhart County has issued an emergency ban on unpermitted fireworks and open burning until July 10.
County leaders met Friday morning with local mayors, fire chiefs and other emergency officials to hammer out the details of a countywide ban on personal fireworks that are not part of a state-permitted and insured display. A recent spell of hot, dry weather has prompted 83 Indiana counties to issue burn bans and take a closer look at whether to allow fireworks.
“We appreciate the help and assistance of the city departments and the county as well,” said Terry Rodino, president of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners. “No one is against fireworks. No one is against the Fourth of July. This is a public safety issue that needs to be addressed and not taken lightly.”
The county sheriff’s department and the city police departments have agreed to enforce both bans. Violators can be held liable for damage or injury caused by setting off fireworks.
“In light of the conditions that exist and the notices being given to the public about the danger going forward, clearly if an event occurs that does cause injury to a person, that does fall within my review in terms of reckless conduct in light of the circumstances, so that’s something we would take a very, very strong look at,” Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said.
On Thursday, the cities of Elkhart and Goshen announced cancellations of their fireworks shows, citing safety concerns posed by the drought. Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore and Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman both agreed that the ban should be countywide.
“I just think there’s too much danger,” Kauffman said.
The fireworks show at Simonton Lake has also been postponed because of the drought. Simonton Lake Sportsman’s Club board member Dick Martin said the commissioners strongly advised rescheduling the display. The club has not set a new date for the event, but Martin said it could possibly happen Labor Day weekend. The Simonton Lake Poker Run is still scheduled at 1 p.m. today, June 30. Hands will be available from 8 a.m. to noon at Lakeshore Grill, 51330 S.R. 19, Elkhart, and Pete’s Simonton Lake Tavern, 51426 S.R. 19, Elkhart.
Nappanee has the only permitted fireworks show at 10 p.m. at Stauffer Park.
Elkhart County has been under a ban since June 15 that prohibits campfires and other recreational fires as well as open burning using wood and other combustible materials. County residents may not set fire to debris, including timber and vegetation. Charcoal and propane-fueled grills may be used under the ban. Burning is limited to barrels with a quarter-inch think mesh top from dawn to dusk.
How to report a violation
Call these agencies to report violations of the ban on fireworks or open burning:
• Bristol Police Department: 848-4464
• Elkhart Police Department: 295-7070
• Goshen Police Department: 533-8661
• Middlebury Police Department: 825-9111, 533-4151 (after hours)
• Millersburg Police Department: 642-4500, 533-4151 (after hours)
• Nappanee Police Department: 773-4111
• Wakarusa Police Department: 862-4200
• Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department: 533-4151