Steamboat Springs Local and area law enforcement intend to take every precaution over the Fourth of July holiday to safeguard the public and property against the threat of wildfire.
That means keeping a watchful eye out for people who take their Independence Day celebrations a little too far.
Fireworks are banned in Routt County, but public safety officials recognize a ban might not be enough to deter people from lighting up the sky. And they're not willing to risk the possibility of fire because of someone else's negligence.
The Routt County Sheriff's Office and Steamboat Springs Police Department are taking a "zero-tolerance" approach to people who ignore or purposely violate the ban.
Anyone who sets off pyrotechnics should expect to face the consequences, said Sheriff John Warner.
"People who are caught with fireworks are going to be ticketed and/or arrested depending on the severity of the crime," he said.
Those who disregard the ban will be ticketed, charged with a class 3 misdemeanor and fined up to $750. If people disregard the ban and a fire that endangers people or property results, they face fourth degree arson charges. If the fire endangers the public, the person or persons responsible could be charged with a class 4 felony, punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison.
If the fire endangers property valued at $100 or more, the person or persons responsible could be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by 3 to 12 months in prison and a $250 to $1,000 fine.
Colorado law already prohibits the use of most fireworks.
The fireworks ban applies to all fireworks, including those previously allowed under state law, such as sparklers, bottle rockets, ground spinners and stationary cones and torches.
"Please, no fireworks at all," Warner said. "Put them away. Save them for next year."
The Attorney General's office in mid-June provided guidelines that helped to clarify local government and law enforcement agencies' role in implementing and enforcing Gov. Bill Owens' ban on open fires and fireworks.
The guidelines outline the civil and criminal penalties applied to the actual setting of fires or reckless behavior that causes fires.
Law enforcement officials want the public to know the gravity of the situation.
Routt County can't afford to have a fire caused by someone's disregard to the fireworks ban, they said.
"I would ask that people consider what is going on in the state at this time, and all over the West, and just forego the activity this year," said J.D. Hays, director of Public Safety Services in Steamboat Springs.
"It's just too risky."
Even the smaller fireworks pose a risk of fire in the current dry conditions, he added.
He asked parents to be mindful of their children's activities over the Fourth of July.
Police will confiscate fireworks, in addition to serving people the appropriate punishment, if they sight people using them, Hays said.
Warner stressed police do not intend to trample on people's festivities with their strict no fireworks policy, but are obligated to protect property and prevent injury. "We've got to do it," he said.
County and local police agencies will saturate their zones of coverage with personnel in order to stay on top of the problem.
Warner said all available manpower would be dedicated to patrolling for the use of fireworks throughout Routt County.
Law enforcement agencies will step up their coverage before July 4 and maintain that intensity a few days after the actual holiday. People typically set off fireworks up to a week after Independence Day, Warner said, so law enforcement must be prepared to deal with that possibility this year.
Hays said the city of Steamboat Springs is bringing in additional officers to deal with another event that requires stepped-up coverage, the Independence Incident Music Festival July 3 and 4.
Also, the Routt County Sheriff's Office will be on the lookout for motorists who drive under the influence of alcohol during the holiday weekend.
Warner asked that residents be vigilant about other people who violate the ban.
"I would encourage people to report all use of fireworks," he said.