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New fireworks ban protocol among updates to El Paso County burn ordinance

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Recent changes in state law have led El Paso County commissioners to consider changes to its current ordinance regulating open burning, including the use of fireworks.

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Currently, fireworks are allowed in unincorporated areas of the county, and commissioners want to bring the county's ordinance in line with recent state statues that were enacted.

The key change is that county commissioners are now required to pass a resolution -- producing a written document -- to approve a fireworks ban, if one is requested by county sheriffs or local fire districts during the peak fireworks season between May 31 and July 5.

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"I'm glad that the final decision is being left in our hands," said Commissioner Holly Williams. "We want to make sure that fireworks businesses that sell legal fireworks have the fullest authority to operate during the season. So I appreciate the detailed ordinance."

During their regular meeting Tuesday, commissioners said that the current ordinance won't change significantly but should provide more clarity about what is and isn't allowed regarding fireworks and other types of burning.

Courtesy: Mandy Campbell

"I do believe it's perhaps a little bit difficult for everybody to understand these laws because there are state laws, and then there are opportunities for local governments to actually ban fireworks further," said commissioner chairman Stan VanderWerf.

Commissioners also asked citizens to be aware of restrictions in their local municipalities and fire districts that could differ from county restrictions and change based on weather conditions or declarations from other local, state and federal authorities.

El Paso County

"We know that people want to celebrate the Fourth of July," VanderWerf said. "We want them to enjoy it, but celebrate safely and remember that they can be liable for any burning that damages property, or injures or kills people."

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He said that only sparklers and similar-type fireworks are legal in the county, but changing weather conditions that lead to drier conditions and fire restrictions could also result in a ban on selling or using fireworks.

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Britton Cottrell, a manager for Utah-based TNT Fireworks, thanked commissioners and the county attorney for the proposed and amended ordinance.

"Thanks for making these clarifications," he said during the public comment portion of the meeting. "It really does help the industry to understand that we're all on the same page moving forward. So we really appreciate that."

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Commissioners unanimously approved the changes on first reading Thursday, but passage isn't official until a second reading and vote in two weeks.

"We'll have more public comment then," VanderWerf said.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

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