EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Even though fourth of July is over, El Paso County Commissioners have passed new changes to the county’s fire ordinance, in time for next year.
Under the new revisions, county commissioners will now have more say when it comes to fire bans during the most crucial months of the year. Commissioner Stan VanderWerf said they also had to comply with the state’s new law as well.
“We had a new statute that came from the state that asks for the county commissioners between May 31st and July five that we would have the authority to ban fireworks or not ban fireworks leading up to the 4th of July,” VanderWerf said.
Through the new changes to the ordinance, VanderWerf said it will give more clarity on open burning and the use and sale of fireworks during times of high fire danger.
It also establishes an open burning permit system for the purpose of authorizing and regulating open burning as one of many methods of safely disposing of slash. It also requires commissioners to draft and pass a written resolution that would ban fireworks county-wide during Stage 1 or II Fire Restrictions between May 31 and July 5.
“Previously, that resided in the authority of the sheriff’s office, and the rest of the year, the sheriff has that authority. But during that short time period, the statute requires the county commissioners to make that decision,” VanderWerf said.
Under the commissioner’s decision, fireworks businesses will also have more time to sell their product, unless they believe fire danger is too high. VanderWerf said it helps them be more involved in the decision process and connect them with the community.
“We’re elected officials, we have a responsibility and a duty to be listening to the citizens. So sometimes citizens send us emails and say, I think we have a very high fire risk here. And others say to us, well, I wish you would not ban… we have to consider when we decide whether or not to ban fireworks is whether we have some scientific information, some real data that says we’re actually carrying an enormous amount of risk,” VanderWerf said.
However, VanderWerf said local neighborhood jurisdictions can still give their say if they think fire danger is high.
“Even with this ordinance, let’s say the county commissioners decide not to ban fireworks. You can have a fire district that still can decide of their own accord to restrict in their particular area and that’s important because in some places it might be a very urban area and additional precautions are not needed. But in another area, you might live in a forest and more precautions are needed,” VanderWerf said.
VanderWerf hopes the new revisions will help give more clarity to people in the community to help understand what they can do to be safe.
“Every single citizen in El Paso County has a responsibility to be safe, to be careful in dealing with fire because we live in a very dry environment. And that’s not only for themselves and their families, but also for their neighbors,” VanderWerf said.