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Fireworks remain a burning issue

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Not exactly booming: Shawn Black, manager at one of two USA Fireworks stores in Greenfield, waits for customers. He said most families are buying smaller-scale fireworks this year that stay on the ground. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Not exactly booming: Shawn Black, manager at one of two USA Fireworks stores in Greenfield, waits for customers. He said most families are buying smaller-scale fireworks this year that stay on the ground. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

MORE ONLINE: The Daily Reporter will not publish on Wednesday because of the Independence Day holiday. Check www.greenfieldreporter.com later today for updates on the county burn ban.


GREENFIELD — Brief weekend showers did little to help the hot, dry conditions that are causing county officials to consider banning fireworks over the July Fourth holiday.

The Hancock County Commissioners will hold a regularly scheduled meeting this morning. Commissioner Brad Armstrong said fireworks will likely come up, but he isn’t sure what the county will ultimately do, if anything.

“We’re going to listen to our fire chiefs to see what they think is best,” Armstrong said. “You’d think people would be logical and realize it’s maybe not the smartest thing to do, but I did hear some go off this weekend.”

Armstrong said the board was also seeking input from county attorney Ray Richardson on whether the county could legally ban fireworks under an emergency order, as some communities have done.

Greenfield has stopped short of an emergency ban, issuing instead an appeal for residents to heed the dangerous conditions and not burn fireworks this year.

A state law passed in 2006 prohibits local governments from issuing ordinances banning fireworks from June 29 to July 9 during certain hours. Richardson said he would let the commissioners know what the law allows but would not make a recommendation.

“I’ll tell them ‘This is the law,’” Richardson said. “If they want to make a blanket ban, they just need to be careful about enforcing it.”

About 20 counties across the state, including Marion and Hamilton, have issued bans on personal fireworks under state-of-emergency decrees. Most other counties have passed limitations on hours or types of fireworks permitted; still others are strongly urging residents to refrain from using fireworks but have not issued hard bans.

Hancock County has been under a burn ban since last week but has not made any statements regarding fireworks specifically. At Monday night’s McCordsville Town Council meeting, officials issued a temporary open burn ban and a ban on fireworks through July 9 because of drought conditions. Anyone violating the law will be subject to warnings and/or fines, the council said. Greenfield and New Palestine have canceled or postponed planned fireworks displays.

The Indiana Fireworks Distributors Association said it believes counties are overstepping their boundaries by prohibiting personal use of fireworks but that it won’t go to court to stop the practice.

That’s bad news for local fireworks sales, which vendors said Monday were slower than normal for just two days before the holiday.

Shawn Black, manager at one of two USA Fireworks outlets in Greenfield, said he thinks the dry weather and burn bans have hurt business. Black said in years past, he has gone through 15 skids of fireworks. On Monday, he was still selling from his initial delivery of just eight skids.

“I haven’t seen the need to get more,” Black said.

Black said that while some customers have requested the large aerial fireworks, most families seem to be sticking to smaller pyrotechnics that stay on the ground.

That’s the plan for Sue and Mick Hewson, who were browsing packages of fountains and sparklers Monday.

Mick Hewson said that while he usually pays for big aerial displays, he’ll be sticking to “driveway” fireworks this year so his granddaughter still has something to see for the holiday.

“If we didn’t, we’d catch our neighbor’s field on fire,” the Greenfield resident said. “It’s so dry.”

Even with precipitation Friday and Saturday, the month ended as the driest June on record.

Greenfield Fire Chief James Roberts said the rain was not enough to make up for the last two months of abnormally dry weather.

“The rain was great, but the grass is still brown,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he hoped people would act with common sense and remember that individuals setting off fireworks can be held responsible for any damage caused.

“We’re just discouraging it as much as possible,” Roberts said.

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