Yellowstone County commissioners agreed Friday to restrict the use of fireworks in the Lockwood Fire District.
That doesnt mean Lockwoods Fourth of July celebration will be devoid of sparks and booms, however. Commissioners agreed to designate the baseball fields near Old Hardin Road an area where people will be allowed to set off fireworks under the watchful eye of the Lockwood Fire Department.
Commissioners accepted the Lockwood Fire Departments recommendations for the limited fireworks ban after a long discussion that touched on the regions extreme fire danger, efforts to educate the public on fireworks safety and the seemingly impossible task of enforcing a ban on fireworks.
Lockwood Fire Chief Alan Riley said fire danger remains high despite last weeks rains. Riley said he has heard from people on both sides of the issue. Some want fireworks banned; others insist that fireworks are essential to their Fourth of July celebration.
The ball fields are the only place that I feel were capable of providing protection, Riley said. Its tough to come to the middle ground here.
Riley also urged commissioners to consider rescinding the fireworks restrictions if Yellowstone County gets rain and fire danger subsides between now and July 4.
Before approving the limited fireworks restrictions in Lockwood, commissioners rejected a Yellowstone County Rural Fire Council proposal to allow people to ignite fireworks within 200 feet of their own home.
The idea behind the proposal is that fireworks users would be more careful if theyre restricted to using them where they live, said Jim Kraft, Yellowstone Countys director of emergency and general services.
I dont know how youre going to expect the Sheriffs Department to enforce this, said Yellowstone County Undersheriff Jay Bell. He said it would be nearly impossible for deputies to determine whether people are using fireworks within 200 feet of their own home.
Its tough to enforce an ordinance that has no teeth except that we have the authority to confiscate fireworks, Bell said.
Commissioners last month approved a resolution banning open burning in Yellowstone County, citing extreme fire danger from months of drought. But rather than issuing a countywide ban on fireworks use, commissioners opted to consider banning fireworks on a case-by-case basis, depending on recommendations from officials in each fire district.
On June 5, commissioners agreed to ban the use of fireworks within the Billings Urban Fire Service Area after a recommendation from the BUFSA board. The Billings Fire Department provides service in BUFSA, an unincorporated area bordered on the south by the Yellowstone River and on the west by 72nd Street West. It also encompasses an area north of Billings Logan International Airport and extends east of the Billings Heights.
|more info The fireworks industry is urging people to use only legal fireworks and to have a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby when they're being set off. Fireworks should only be used under adult supervision, and they should never be thrown. Users are also warned to never relight dud fireworks. Used fireworks should be soaked in water, and debris should be cleaned up.|
commission has heard from the Huntley-Worden Fire District, which has decided not to ban fireworks.
The Blue Creek Fire Department is taking a different approach.
Were going to take the Boy Scout approach. Be prepared, said Keith Kolstad of the Blue Creek Fire Department.
Having some districts ban fireworks while others allow them complicates enforcement. I cant tell you where one fire district begins and another ends, Bell said.
This is muddying the waters, Commissioner Bill Kennedy said, referring to the proposal from the Rural Fire Council. I dont know how it can be enforced.
Jerry Farley, a spokesman for the fireworks industry, said information on safe fireworks use will be provided at fireworks stands, which are scheduled to open Sunday, he said. The industry also plans a media campaign to encourage the safe use of fireworks.
I understand the struggle you have, Farley told commissioners. He said the fireworks safety campaign should have started earlier this year. But he promised that a fireworks safety campaign will start earlier next year.Tom Howard can be reached at 657-1261 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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