Ordinance bans fireworks sales and use in unincorporated Garfield County

Ban does not restrict municipal fireworks displays, use in towns, or on federal lands

May 9, 2013

Update: June 17, 2013
Garfield County Commissioners voted 2-1 on June 17 to rescind the ban on fireworks sales in Garfield County for June 29-July 4 only, but a ban on use of fireworks in unincorporated Garfield County will still be fully enforced.

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Garfield County Commissioners have prohibited the sale or use of fireworks in the county with an ordinance that takes effect Friday, May 10, 2013. The ban will not affect fireworks displays planned by the municipalities or sales and use in towns within the county – Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute. It is in effect for private lands and county-owned lands within Garfield County borders that are not federal or state lands or within a municipality. Restrictions for those lands are determined by the individual agencies. Battlement Mesa is unincorporated, so the ban will go into effect for residents in that area.

The ordinance could remain in effect through December 31, 2013.

“We took this action to meet statutory deadlines for enacting an ordinance in time for the upcoming peak time for fireworks sales,” said John Martin, Garfield County commission chair presiding over the May 6 unanimous vote by commissioners to institute the ban. “We needed to take this action now to invoke a ban during the time period around the 4th of July holiday.”

The ordinance will take effect immediately, which is a faster than normal time period after a resolution is signed. “The ban become effective immediately upon printing of the second public notice,” said Garfield County Attorney Frank Hutfless. “This is because the board not only heard testimony verifying a season of high fire danger is expected, but the board also found that the ordinance is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health or safety of residents within the county.”

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario and Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt presented information to the commissioners on the gravity of the fire risks. It states that Garfield County is in a second year of drought categorized as severe to extreme; 2013 weather outlooks call for increased chances of drier and warmer than normal weather, which causes the foliage “green up” period to be shorter, and fine fuels (such as grasses) to be more susceptible to early ignition; and that wood fuels contain relatively low moisture content.

“Conditions are changing as our fire season nears,” said Bornholdt. “Last year’s drought caused our fuels (trees, shrubs and grass) to dry out. This year’s spring snows and rain have added moisture, but it’s not enough to make much of a difference. Grasses are growing quickly now because of rain, but with a few days of hot, dry, and windy weather, we will have extremely dry conditions and a high fire danger.”

The new ordinance gives arresting peace officers the ability to leverage a penalty assessment of $1,000 per occurrence. Hutfless confirmed to the commissioners that this can be assessed for every single transaction in the sale of fireworks, and for each firework fuse lit. Those who agree to a guilty plea and waive the right to trial would have their fines reduced to $300 per each offense.

Cities in Garfield County may choose to adopt the ordinance as their own through a resolution without going through the full process of adoption that the county has.