Snuffing out fire

City Council to review fire ban ordinance June 25

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The Craig City Council will consider enacting an emergency ordinance June 25 that backs Gov. Owens' statewide fire ban which makes the use of any firework illegal.

The ordinance, City Manager Jim Ferree said, is a response to a request from Attorney General Ken Salazar that all city and county governments support Owens' bans. It also gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce the bans and strengthens the penalties assessed.

Craig police will take a "zero tolerance" stance on anyone caught violating the ordinance.

Police chiefs and sheriffs across the state flooded the Attorney General's office with calls asking how to enforce Owens' fire ban and whether it was pertinent on private, city-owned or county-owned property.

According to a letter sent by Salazar to all law enforcement agencies in the state, there is a statewide ban on open fires and the use or sale of all fireworks. Those who were previously issued permits to sell fireworks have been notified that their permits are temporarily suspended.

The governor's order relies on counties and cities throughout the state to enforce the ban.

"(Police Chief Walt Vanatta) felt like if the public felt like we had a ban and added penalties to the exemptions, we'd have teeth," Ferree said.

The governor's ban, Vanatta said, included penalties for those who sell fireworks, it left it to cities and counties to determine penalties for other violations of the fire ban.

"This is kind of a local control issue for each city and county," Vanatta said. "There is no enforcement unless local entities develop one."

In previous years, those caught igniting illegal fireworks were generally given a warning. This year, they will be automatically cited into court, Vanatta said.

"It just seems like the prudent thing to do considering the nature of the weather and the fire risk," he said. "It's just so dry out, it seems reasonable to do it."

Vanatta that enacting a citywide fireworks ban with tough penalties

Violation of the ordinance constitutes a Class C offense as defined by the

Craig Municipal Code. Penalties include fines of between $25 and $200, possibility of jail time of five to 40 days and possibly probation and community service.

That penalty can be made harsher if the council so chooses, City Attorney Sherman Romney said.

According to city charter, any emergency ordinance must be approved unanimously. A copy of the ordinance has been e-mailed to all council members for their review and comment. It will be presented at their June 25 meeting, if approved there, it will be law. The city ordinance will be in effect until the governor ends his ban, Ferree said.

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