COLORADO SPRINGS — For Jody Illet, she found out about El Paso County’s Fireworks ban after she got home from Denver, after driving to pick up her summer shipment of the fireworks she was planning to sell in her store.
“It was a big letdown, and yes, I was angry,” Ilett, the owner of Affordable Flags and Fireworks in southern Colorado Springs, said. “I was hoping for a little release after COVID.”
Ilett opened her store 32 years ago selling, as the name would suggest, flags and fireworks. Both were a hit, particularly in the summertime. The fireworks, especially, provide a large profit margin that helps her bottom line, boosting the year’s sales during what is typically one month of sales.
“There’s no drought in this part of the state anymore; there’s no fire ban, just a ban on fireworks,” Illet said.
In the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) released on June 1 announcing the ban, Sheriff Bill Elder cited drought conditions (that were present at that time) and long-range weather forecasts predicting a dryer than normal summer (with which the National Weather Service agrees).
Illet remembers the Fourth of July last summer as her neighborhood “sounded like a war zone.”
The area was in State One Fire Restrictions at the time, which includes a ban on fireworks. She said she talked to an EPSO deputy who said they responded to several small fires that night.
The broad nature of the ban is frustrating, lopping together fountains that stay on the ground with mortars that launch explosives into the air.
“The ground fireworks that most people use, the fountains, the spinners, if they’re used responsibly, they’re not going to cause a fire,” she said.
Illet recognizes the important caveat of that statement, and the predicament local authorities face.
“If you don’t trust somebody to do something, you just make it harder to get the product,” she expressed.
There are processes for illegal fireworks to be sold in Colorado, including signing a sworn statement that the products won’t be used in the state.
With the problem of illegal fireworks being shot off in Colorado Springs unlikely to be ever solved, she knows people have workarounds that, ultimately, put her business at a disadvantage.
“As long as people are willing to break the law and buy the aerial fireworks from out of state and light them, even during a fire ban, I guess we’re just going to have to deal with the fact that the Sheriff can put a fireworks ban on and stop everybody [from selling],” Ilett said.