Sheriff echoes Owens' plea

Warner wants residents to avoid using fireworks

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— People intent on celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks are encouraged to watch someone else's sparks fly.

Gov. Bill Owens on Monday issued a statewide ban on fires and fireworks.

Although the governor cannot enforce the ban, he asked for voluntary cooperation and anticipated counties and cities would draw up procedures to punish offenders.

Owens earlier encouraged Coloradans to take advantage of municipal fireworks displays, rather than setting off their own fireworks.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner echoed the governor's plea Monday.

He encouraged residents in the county to avoid using fireworks this summer.

Unseasonably dry conditions and recent outbreaks of blazes throughout the state have officials wary of people using fireworks in their backyards.

Routt County commissioners approved a countywide fire ban Monday that pertains to all private and state-owned land beyond municipal boundaries. The restrictions prohibit the use of fireworks in the county, but municipalities, such as Steamboat Springs, are not affected by the ban.

Fireworks stands will no doubt appear as the Fourth of July approaches, but a person's right to legally purchase fireworks does not mean it's a good idea to do so, Warner said.

Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Bob Struble said last week he didn't anticipate the city implementing fireworks restrictions either.

Steamboat Springs has never outlawed fireworks, until now.

On Tuesday night, the City Council canceled the city's Fourth of July's fireworks display because of the fire danger.

Education would go a long way this summer toward alerting the public to the danger associated with fireworks, Warner said.

If fireworks get out of hand and cause a fire, the people responsible for the fire will be punished, he said.

Fourth-degree arson charges are applied in such cases.

The penalties, however, are much graver if damage to property or loss of life results from the blaze, he added.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office tracks the person or persons responsible for blazes, often with the help of neighbors who see firsthand the damage that results from the fireworks.

"We get a lot of calls from witnesses who see the stuff set," Warner said.

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