With Independence Day on everyone’s mind, Washington Police Chief Ken Hahn reminded citizens that the city of Washington has an ordinance prohibiting the possession or shooting of fireworks within the city limits.
“This year we will have extra officers on patrol with a zero tolerance due to the extreme weather conditions,” he said. “Officers have been directed to give no warnings, but to issue summons and confiscate fireworks.”
Hahn said the law does not distinguish between types of fireworks and that even sparklers are prohibited.
“A sparkler can start a fire easier than a match,” he said.
Violations are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
The American Legion fireworks display has been postponed as well as fireworks for a fundraiser for the Washington Jaycees.
Fire Chief Bill Halmich said that with fireworks, the likelihood of fire is always present, but the recent dry conditions are more likely to be conducive to start a fire.
He said a blaze Wednesday night south of New Haven is evidence of what catastrophic events can occur with fires.
A special weather statement issued by the National Weather Service reminds people to be extremely cautious with cigarettes, matches or other activity that could create sparks.
“These weather conditions are favorable for rapidly spreading grass and brush fires,” it says. “The elevated fire danger will likely extend through the weekend and into the holiday week as dry conditions and record heat continue across the region.”
The National Fire Protection Association reported that on a typical Independence Day, there are more fires than on any other day of the year and fireworks account for more than half of those fires.
Fire Chief Halmich pointed out that in 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires.
The fires resulted in an estimated eight reported deaths, 60 injuries and $36 million in direct property damage.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that this May was one of the driest Mays on record for Missouri and the one-year period from June 2011 to May 2012 was the warmest such period recorded for Missouri.
SEMA (State Emergency Management Association) is monitoring the drought situation and providing twice-weekly updates on what communities are doing as far as burn bans, water system issues, grassland fires, heat-related deaths, etc.