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Tom Lawrence plans to ask Yellowstone County commissioners to rescind a month-old ban on open burning at today’s commission meeting.

Lawrence, regional sales manager for R&S Marketing, a Bozeman-based fireworks distributor, said fireworks sales in Yellowstone County have been running 50 percent of normal, partly because of confusion over fireworks restrictions within Yellowstone County.

As of Monday, fireworks remained illegal within the city of Billings. It’s illegal to set off fireworks within the Billings Urban Fire Service Area, an area within about 4-1/2 miles of the city limits, and in the Lockwood Fire District. But it’s not illegal to sell or possess fireworks within those areas.

But fireworks restrictions could change, depending on whether a majority of the three-member commission believes that fire danger has subsided sufficiently in the wake of heavy rains during June.

Lawrence said his company operates seven fireworks stands in the Billings area, “and they have been hurt badly” by Yellowstone County’s fireworks restrictions. “They have a lot of product that would normally have been sold by now,” Lawrence said Monday.

Fireworks retailers have one more chance to ease fireworks restrictions before Wednesday’s Independence Day celebration.

Commissioners banned open burning in Yellowstone County in May, citing extreme fire danger. The ban prevents burning ditches, trash and campfires. But rather than impose a county-wide ban on the use of fireworks, commissioners opted to seek comments from individual fire districts before restricting fireworks.

Since then, the Billings Urban Fire Service Area and the Lockwood Fire District have asked for, and received, fireworks restrictions from the commission. Other districts have declined to restrict fireworks.

But the county’s extreme fire danger has apparently eased after 4 inches of rain that fell during June. Last week Jim Kraft, Yellowstone County’s fire marshal, recommended that commissioners rescind the ban on open burning. The Lockwood Fire Department also recommended easing restrictions on fireworks.

But a proposal to rescind the burning restrictions died on a tie vote Friday. Commissioner James A. “Ziggy” Ziegler voted to rescind the burning ban, but Commissioner Jim Reno voting no. Commissioner Bill Kennedy was absent Friday but will attend today’s meeting.

Contacted Monday, Kennedy promised to carefully weigh information from both sides before casting his vote. Tom Howard can be reached at 657-1261 or at