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SPOTLIGHT
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A safer Fourth

Published on -5/16/2013, 9:44 AM

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Residents in this region, much like Americans throughout the country, look forward to celebrating the nation's independence every Fourth of July. That's not surprising, as barbecue and fireworks tend to highlight most gatherings that holiday weekend.

That's the backdrop Hays city commissioners have to contend with as they consider whether to ban consumer fireworks this Independence Day. When officials meet Thursday night in a work session, they'll discuss the staff's recommendation to go without sales and use of all consumer fireworks.

The more pressing conditions commissioners will consider, of course, are dry and hot days expected to precede the holiday. The entire western half of the state either is in extreme or exceptional drought conditions -- and the Farmer's Almanac is predicting drier than normal weather in Hays this summer. Not the ideal environment for burning projectiles around town.

"Staff is going to recommend to prohibit the sale and use of fireworks this year, due to the drought conditions still existing and still being in the water watch," Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno said Tuesday.

Allowing safety first to guide what's allowed this year makes sense. It will be unpopular, to be sure, but most level-headed residents will understand.

Staff also wants to prevent a repeat of last year's ban, which wasn't issued until the week before the Fourth. By that point, the familiar tents had been erected and sales were underway. That decision raised the ire of vendors, and made enforcement particularly difficult as fireworks already were in the hands of consumers.

As declaring the ban now should alleviate both of those concerns, we fully support the commissioners doing just that.

While vendors already have purchased their inventory, at least they wouldn't incur the expense of setting up shop and staffing the booths. And their purchases wouldn't go to waste, even if they couldn't find another location to sell them at. If kept dry, the shelf life of fireworks is much longer than a year.

Commissioners also would have the luxury of reversing its decision should a surprising spell of rain suddenly end the long-term drought. Also, this ban would not apply to the carefully monitored and impressive display the Wild West Festival committee already has planned.

We would encourage the commission to declare the ban at its next regular meeting.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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