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Most cities, counties ban fireworks

7/3/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

If you're looking to shoot off fireworks this year, your choices as far as location are limited.

A check with sheriff and emergency management offices Monday show only a few places still are allowing the discharge of fireworks. They include Wallace and Rush counties and the city of Osborne.

Virtually everywhere else, fireworks -- the discharge if not the actual sale -- are off limits, and subject to fines.

But the firecrackers going off in Sharon Springs on Saturday was a fairly sporadic event, according to a dispatcher for the Wallace County Sheriff's office.

"They can light them off with caution," she said. "We do have a burn ban, but it does not include fireworks."

Saturday was quiet for fireworks in Sharon Springs, thinking most people aren't even buying them worried about starting a fire.

"We are allowing fireworks as of right now," a spokeswoman for the Rush County Sheriff's office said of both the county and the city of La Crosse. "We are under a burn ban."

Fireworks can be discharged from 8 a.m. to midnight through Wednesday in the city of Osborne.

"But there will be no fireworks display," the Osborne County Sheriff's office said.

Osborne County has banned fireworks, with violators subject to a $500 fine. Fines vary, ranging up to $500, although Russell County plans to seek reimbursement for firefighting expenses for any fire caused by fireworks.

Tracking where fireworks can and can't be used is a difficult task, as no one is keeping track.

Some areas are banning the discharge of fireworks, but not the sale.

That's causing some concern for fire officials, who are worried they might be used anyway.

In most cases, emergency management directors said, cities are following what counties are doing.

Everyone is reporting a continuing high risk of fires, even in areas that received some rain during the weekend.

The rains also brought plenty of lightning, responsible for a crush of fires.

Ryan Murray, emergency management coordinator for Sherman, Cheyenne and Rawlins counties, said weekend storms brought little rain but plenty of fires.

"We are extremely dry," he said.

The three counties had 30 fires Friday and Saturday, most of them started by lightning as the storms swept through -- leaving little rain.

One of the fires in Rawlins County damaged farm outbuildings, but didn't hurt any homes.

Decatur County reported five fires over the weekend, the result of lightning.

Debbie Hays, Phillips County's emergency management director, said bans have been put in place.

"We don't have any firemen left," she said of the strain placed on the county's volunteer department.

A fire near Logan on Wednesday proved to be the biggest in the state, although they're still trying to determine just how big it was and what started it.

And it's still burning.

"Our firemen haven't quit," she said, and a truck continues to be stationed out at the scene, extinguishing hot spots as they flare up. "We look like late August. Our grass is brown. Our sunflowers that get about 5 feet tall in August, they're like that already."

A fire in Gove County near Quinter might be one of the few started and extinguished by the weekend storm, according to George "Pappy" Lies, the Gove-Logan emergency management director.

The fire was reported and both he and a fire truck from Trego County looked for but were unable to find the fire.

But the rain hasn't turned the tide.

"The dead vegetation," Lies said, "it's still dead and it's still dry."

Fireworks are still banned throughout Graham County, said Mickie Helberg, emergency management coordinator.

Weekend rains were beneficial, but spotty, she said, ranging anywhere from little to a half inch.

"Our conditions are still not the greatest," she said. "The rain that we got was much needed and it helped us. However, the environmental conditions are still not very good."