The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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June 26, 2013

Officials caution public about fireworks safety

ENID, Okla. — Officials are warning people celebrating the upcoming Independence Day holiday to exercise caution while using fireworks, in order to avoid unintended fires or injuries.

A citywide ban prevents possession and discharge of fireworks within city limits.

Fireworks can be sold throughout Oklahoma between June 15 and July 6, according to state law.

“Counties, cities or towns may impose more stringent criteria to include prohibiting the sale and use of fireworks within their corporate limits,” the law reads.

Consumer fireworks, commonly referred to as Class C fireworks, are prohibited in city limits, but novelty fireworks, such as party poppers, snappers and smoke bombs, are not.

The ordinance applies to fireworks that are not considered novelties, that often bear a 1.4 G-rating on the packaging. The ordinance states the definition of fireworks includes, but is not limited to, firecrackers, Roman candles, skyrockets, stick rockets or rocket-fired toys.

Although it is unlawful to sell, use, possess or distribute fireworks in Enid, it is not unlawful to transport fireworks purchased at stands into city limits if they are kept in their original packaging.

People with fireworks in their possession while breaking state law or city ordinance can have their fireworks confiscated for later destruction.

Violation of the ordinance is considered a class B offense and can result in a fine of up to $500 and court costs.

Assistant Fire Marshall Todd Hays said there have been no confirmed fireworks-related fires this summer.

Last year, between June 15 and July 6, Enid Fire Department responded to 30 grass fires, he said. He said that did not include fire calls outside of city limits.

“Overall, I think we’ve done pretty well,” he said.

However, Hays said some people have moved outside city limits with their fireworks, often to places where it is expressly prohibited to discharge fireworks.

According to the law, “It shall be unlawful to explode or ignite fireworks within five hundred (500) feet of any church, hospital, asylum, unharvested, flammable agricultural crop, public school or where fireworks are stored, sold or offered for sale.

“No person shall ignite or discharge any permissible articles of fireworks within or throw the same from a motor vehicle; nor shall any person place or throw any ignited article of fireworks into or at such a motor vehicle or at or near any group of people.”

The law also outlines who can and cannot be sold fireworks.

‘It shall be unlawful to offer for retail sale or to sell any fireworks to children under the age of (12) years, unless accompanied by an adult, or to any intoxicated or irresponsible person.”

Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles said deputies already have been patrolling the county on complaints of fireworks being illegally discharged, most often too near crops or bales of hay.

“It’s very dry out here in the county,” Niles said. “We had lightning strikes today (Tuesday) that set off a bunch of grass fires.”

He said last year, rural fire departments were bombarded with calls around the Fourth of July because of drought conditions across the county. Niles warned people illegally shooting fireworks in the county about the remaining crops in the area.

“We are in the midst of harvest and harvest probably won’t be done by the holiday,” he said. “There will be some standing crops out there that could be endangered. Farmers are cutting right now and there are people out there shooting fireworks off in close proximity.”

The sheriff also reminded those shooting fireworks off in the county that the “roadway,” as defined by law, is from “fence line to fence line.”

“You can discharge fireworks on private property if you have permission or you own the property,” Niles said. “Lease roads or anything on the roadway is off limits.”

Hays warned there are other consequences outside of a fine.

“Persons responsible for fires caused by fireworks may be subject to civil liability and charges for fire department emergency responses,” Hays said. “Citizens are encouraged to be respectful of the established regulation concerning fireworks.

“As a safe and legal alternative, please plan to attend one or more of the professional displays that are scheduled for the community. Enjoy a safe and happy Independence Day,” he said.

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