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City officials ask that people heed fire threat and not set off pyrotechnics

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GREENFIELD — Public safety officials are discouraging fireworks use of any kind over the Fourth of July holiday, saying the dry conditions have made the usual means of celebrating unsafe.

While local officials say they cannot legally prohibit area residents from setting off fireworks, they are encouraging the public to voluntarily refrain from doing so.

A 2006 law forbids local governments to ban fireworks between June 29 and July 9. Many counties – but not Hancock County – have declared emergencies that include bans on fireworks in an effort to get around the law.

The Indiana Fireworks Distributors Association said Friday it believes counties are overstepping their authority in banning personal use of fireworks.

Greenfield is hoping the appeal has the same effect as a ban. In an executive notice issued from the mayor’s office, Mayor Pro Tempore Mitch Pendlum notes that “the financial cost and danger to life and property posed by all fireworks outweighs any benefit that fireworks may bring.”

The notice was issued Friday and remains in effect for seven days. It asks residents to recognize the “threat to the health, safety and welfare of the community, because the risk of fire is so great.”

Though the county received some rain Friday afternoon, the brief shower was not enough to make a significant difference, Greenfield Fire Chief James Robert said.

“A little bit will help, but it’s going to dry up pretty quick,” he said.

Greenfield postponed its annual fireworks show Wednesday after the city’s fireworks vendor, Circle City Pyrotechnics, expressed concern about a fire hazard due to the lack of rain.

New Palestine followed suit the next day and canceled today’s show, though there will still be a community day held with live music and craft booths.

Organizers of both shows have discussed the possibility of having the fireworks shows rescheduled for Labor Day weekend, but no official date has been released.

Fortville is the lone city in the area that has kept its community fireworks show, scheduled for July 7, on the calendar.

But that could easily change between now and then, said Fortville volunteer firefighter/EMT Roger Tappy, noting the department responded to a grass fire Thursday night caused by fireworks.

Firefighters were called to the 2700 block of West CR 900N around 9 p.m.

There was no one there when they arrived to explain what happened, but the small grass fire in a ditch off the south side of the road was clearly caused by fireworks, the remnants of which were still in the middle of the roadway, Tappy said.

“It could have been very bad, because it’s standing corn on both sides,” he said. “If the wind had been just right, … that could have been tragic. That could have been crop loss and a huge amount of effort … to get it put out.”

Tappy said coordinators of Fortville’s fireworks show are keeping an eye on weather conditions.

“We have plenty of time,” he said. “It’s not till the 7th. A lot of things can change.”

Roberts said although he knows many residents will disregard the warning, every person who complies will make a difference in the safety of the community as a whole.

“If we can get a number of people to not set fireworks off, we’re tremendously better off than we would be,” he said. “We’re not going stop everyone. There’s no way we could police that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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