Agencies to crack down on illegal use of fireworks during holiday


As the Fourth of July nears, local officials are again encouraging area residents to heed the warnings of the current fire ban, which prohibits the discharge of fireworks.

"We've taken a position of zero tolerance," said Craig Chief of Police Walt Vanatta.

Vanatta said the "zero tolerance" position will have consequences if an individual is found to be discharging fireworks.

"Historically, we may have given a warning in the past," Vanatta said. "But this year, you will be cited in the court. I would concentrate on watching the fireworks the fire department puts on," Vanatta said. "Do not run a risk that could potentially destroy a home or property."

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said his department is taking a similar stand.

"We're going to take a no-tolerance approach," Grinstead said. "We are way ahead this year as far as extreme conditions for fires go. Our guys will be on patrol to watch for fireworks. If an individual is found shooting off fireworks, we will cite that individual into court under reckless endangerment."

Grinstead said it is particularly important that the ban is observed this year.

"The fire conditions in the past haven't been as extreme as they are now," Grinstead said. Things are bad. "If you have to shoot off fireworks, wait until New Year's Eve, when hopefully there will be some snow on the ground."

Craig Fire Chief Roy Mason also expressed concern over the possibility that residents may disregard the fire ban.

"Illegal fireworks are our biggest concern," Mason said. "We're not worried about the fireworks we shoot off. It's the illegal fireworks throughout town and around the outskirts of the county that could cause us major problems."

Mason said if there was a problem, it could potentially cancel the fireworks display the department has planned.

"We are worried that people using illegal fireworks may start something that will shut things down," Mason said.

"If we have to go fight a big fire somewhere in the city or around the county, that will probably shut the whole show down."

Mason said if residents do witness someone discharging fireworks, local officials should be notified as soon as possible.

"If you see somebody shooting off illegal fireworks, report them quickly," Mason said. "Because if they get a good fire going, it could affect their home and their property. People should get an identification and license plates, and report it just as soon as they can."

The Moffat County Commissioners passed the fire ban on June 18.

Activities prohibited under the current fire ban include:

The discharge of any fireworks.

Building, maintaining, or using any fire to burn trash, debris, fence rows or vegetation.

Any campfire, warming fire or charcoal grill; except in designated campgrounds, picnic areas or developed recreation sites where permanent fire pits are located.

Smoking; except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area of at least three feet in diameter that is barren and cleared of all flammable material.

Operating a chainsaw without: a USDA or SAE-approved spark arresting device properly installed and in effective working order; a chemical pressurized five-pound fire extinguisher; and one round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches.

Using explosives which require fuses or blasting caps.

Welding or operating an acetylene torch or other torch with an open flame; except within an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material at least 10 feet on all sides from the equipment. A chemical pressurized five-pound fire extinguisher, and one round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least 36 inches is also required. The extinguisher and shovel may be kept with the welding supplies, but must be readily available for use.

Exemptions from the fire ban include:

Persons with a valid written permit from the jurisdictional federal agency or sheriff of the respective county that specifically authorizes the prohibited act.

Any federal, state, or local officer or member of a organized rescue or fire-fighting force in the performance of an official duty.

Any fires contained within liquid-fueled or gas stoves, fireplaces within buildings, charcoal fires at private residences and permanent fire pits or fire grates located in developed picnic grounds and campgrounds.

In preparation for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display, the Craig Rural Fire Protection District conducted a prescribed burn last week. The burn took place in the vacant field directly south of Moffat County High School.

"Basically what we're doing is burning off the fuels that could potentially ignite during the fireworks display," said Kamisha Siminoe, public education officer for the Craig Rural Fire Protection District.

Siminoe said a similar prescribed burn is done each year before the fireworks display.

"This really isn't a new thing," Siminoe said. " We do it every year when we do fireworks. But because there's such a heightened awareness of where we are with our conditions this year, we've taken some extra precautionary measures."

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