After questions about whether the fireworks show at Mishawaka’s annual Summerfest would be a go because of the dry weather and a countywide burn ban, the city's fire chief gave his OK.
As it does every year, the fire department put crews on standby to douse embers that might spark a fire and the city watered down the area near where the fireworks were to be set off.
But several St. Joseph County fire chiefs are asking county commissioners to enact a fireworks ban if the entire county does not get an areawide, soaking rain by late next week.
Much like the countywide burn ban already in place, municipalities would not be covered under a fireworks ban passed by commissioners.
Fireworks are a tradition in communities, ballparks and back yards around the Fourth of July holiday. But this year, thanks to a drought, the usual fire in the summer sky is creating lots of questions.
“We have a lot of phone calls coming in,” said Vanessa Draves, with Spiderworks Fireworks in Mishawaka. “People don’t know if it’s safe to shoot off fireworks or not because of the burn ban.”
Both Draves and Kirk Bryan, who owns Ba-Boom Fireworks in Granger, say it’s affecting their bottom line.
“[Business has been] a little bit slower right now,” said Bryan, compared to the same time frame last year. “I think the media is dramatizing the dry weather and the burn ban and relating it with the wildfires out in Colorado where really, here in St. Joe County and Elkhart County it’s not the same.”
But there is one thing that could slow sales even more at Spiderworks and Ba-Boom.
“If there is a fireworks ban put on, that’s definitely going to hurt all the local businesses,” Draves told WSBT.
Right now, 29 Indiana counties have some sort of fireworks ban or warning in place. In our area, LaPorte, LaGrange and Kosciusko Counties have already made it illegal to set off any kind of personal fireworks. People in Elkhart, Fulton, Marshall and Pulaski Counties are being strongly encouraged not to use them at all right now.
There is a very strong possibility the list of counties and cities under a fireworks ban could grow.
According to state law, public displays put on by professionals do not fall under a fireworks ban and it’s up to the local fire chief to decide whether any shows are postponed.
State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson told WSBT Friday there’s also a grey area in the law when it comes to whether a fireworks ban can be enforced during the 10 day window around July 4 when the statute says residents are allowed to use them. But, Greeson added he hopes people use common sense when it comes to fireworks – especially when it’s as dry as it is outside.
The biggest concern with fireworks right now is the damage caused by sparks and embers from fireworks.
Clay Fire Territory Chief John Vance said nearly every year at least one local department responds to a house, garage or field fire caused by fireworks that were not shot off or monitored responsibly. This year the risk is even bigger, he said, because of the unusually dry conditions.