Cape issues no-burn order, discourages fireworks use

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Jerry and Danielle Price of Bertrand, Mo. check out the selection of fireworks Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at Hoffman Family Fireworks in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

With the Fourth of July looming, fireworks went on sale in four spots across Cape Girardeau on Wednesday -- the same day that city fire officials implored residents not to use them.

The reason is obvious, according to fire chief Rick Ennis, the man who made the call Wednesday to issue a no-burn order that will remain in place until further notice. The extended dry conditions and sizzling temperatures that are expected to climb into the triple digits over the next several days have created an unsafe environment that increases the risk for fires and property damage.

An outright ban on fireworks was discussed at a weekly department head meeting, Ennis said.

"We thought it would be a good idea to implement a ban on fireworks," Ennis said. "But we didn't feel it would be very realistic or enforceable. ... So instead, we're hoping to discourage people from using fireworks. We're hoping people have enough common sense that they won't do it this year."

Enforcement of such a ban, Ennis said, would prove to be impractical and difficult to enforce.

Those who do light fireworks should use extreme caution, Ennis said. Fireworks may be shot off until midnight July 4. Between now and then, they can be shot off until 10 p.m., according to city ordinances.

These fireworks offer the maximum powder of 500-grams at Hoffman Family Fireworks in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Other communities across Southeast Missouri have canceled celebrations that involved fireworks because of the drought.

Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Jay Purcell hopes to encourage his fellow commissioners at today's meeting to prohibit fireworks being shot off at any county park, including Cape County Park North, Cape County Park South and Klaus Park.

"I'd rather err on the side of safety," said Purcell, who oversees the county's park systems. "All three parks have 250 acres of wooded areas. I just don't feel real comfortable letting fireworks be shot off there because of the dryness."

Fourth of July celebrations in Cape Girardeau and Jackson -- that do involve fireworks -- are still a go, said organizers for both events.

Rodger Brown, commander of the USA Veterans celebration at Arena Park, said a firetruck will be standing by for any incidents. He noted the event has had no trouble with errant fires in the past. He said he hopes the city's admonition to residents not to shoot off fireworks pushes up their attendance figures.

"I think it's going to be blockbuster," Brown said.

Jackson Alderman Larry Cunningham, chairman of the Independence Day Celebration Committee, said the dryness is a worry. But Jackson's fireworks are shot out over a body of water -- Rotary Lake. A fire department presence will also be in attendance.

"It's going to be real big," Cunningham said. "But we're going with fireworks."

A no-burn notice, however, is in effect in Jackson, said fire chief Jason Mouser. The order has been in effect since Monday.

Those who do attend holiday events should expect sizzling hot weather. When meteorologist Robin Smith of the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., was asked to sum up the next few days of weather, he summed it up in one word: "Crap. It's going to be crap."

Today's high in Cape Girardeau is expected to hit 104 degrees, with Friday's high about the same, Smith said. Saturday will see 103 and Sunday will level off at 102. Monday will hit about 100 degrees, Smith said.

Any rain in the forecast? "Not at all, sir," Smith said. "The summer forecast is for continued hot and dry conditions. The drought monitor for the area has us in severe conditions persisting or worsening through the end of August."

Other communities have opted to cancel events altogether.

The Perryville Rotary and the Perryville Fire Department announced Tuesday they had elected to postpone the city's fireworks show to an as-yet-undetermined date.

The fire danger scale lists that region as "extreme," which is the highest threat for fires.

"As much as we all love celebrating the Fourth with fireworks, this is not a year in which we can take the chances that our dry conditions present," Perryville Mayor Debbie Gahan said in an emailed statement. " ... I love the celebrations, but I don't want to be part of a party that inadvertently causes tragedy and I hope all citizens feel the same way."

Several counties in Southeast Missouri including Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard are classified as being in the state of an extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Scott County and Miner have issued no-burn orders. New Madrid Mayor Donnie Brown with support from the board of aldermen banned all fireworks as the fire chief there indicated there is a possibility of fires. Similar no-burn orders were in effect in Portageville, Mo., and fireworks aren't allowed in Matthews, Mo. East Prairie, Mo., Mayor Kevin Mainord issued a no-burn order there and the discharge of all aerial fireworks, or those that leave the ground, are prohibited.

According to the Daily Statesman in Dexter, Mo., city officials met Wednesday and determined to place a ban on all open burning as well as fireworks. As a result, the city canceled its July 3 fireworks display. Nearby Bloomfield, Mo., also issued a ban on all burning and personal fireworks until further notice.

But that order in Bloomfield will not include a city fireworks display, which is still set for July 4.

Advance and Bell City have issued burn/fireworks bans, the Statesman reported, within their city limits. Essex issued a similar order on Wednesday morning, which includes a ban on all open burning -- such as yard waste and leaves -- until further notice. That town does plan to offer a later date for individuals to shoot fireworks, but not until drought conditions improve.

In Stoddard County, only Puxico is still allowing fireworks and burning.

Union County, Ill., commissioners issued a ban on Wednesday on all open burning as well.

Several fireworks sellers in Cape Girardeau worried about what the dry conditions will mean for business for the week until July 4. Chris Wheeler, an owner of the Patriot Fireworks tent in the Schnucks parking lot, agreed that there's a heightened risk factor.

"You can't deny that," he said. "But you can take some precautions and limit that."

Lawns can be watered down, Wheeler said. Fire extinguishers can be on hand. Bottle rockets are no longer legal to sell in the city limits, he said. But with his financial investment, which he only has a week to recoup, he hopes that people will still buy fireworks and act responsibly.

"They just need to be cautious and select areas and surrounding areas that can be closely controlled," he said.

Mary Ann Hoffman of Hoffman Family Fireworks said her stand at the Town Plaza has removed missiles from the shelves because the trajectory is less predictable and could wind up in someone else's yard. Her stand is handing out fliers that offer 10 things fireworks buyers should remember with each purchase. Each idea points to using fireworks appropriately and safely.

"Yes, it's a concern," Hoffman said. "But if you follow a few of those safety rules, which should be followed all the time, obviously it will lessen the risk."

The Standard Democrat and Daily Statesman contributed to this report.


Area burn and fireworks bans:

* Cape Girardeau, no-burn order, discouraging use of fireworks

* Jackson, no-burn order

* Cape Girardeau County, considering not allowing fireworks shot in county parks

* Perryville, city fireworks show postponed

* Perry County, no-burn order

* Scott County, no-burn order

* Miner, no-burn order

* New Madrid, banned all fireworks

* Portageville, Mo., no-burn order

* Matthews, Mo., banned fireworks

* East Prairie, Mo., no-burn order and the discharge of all aerial fireworks are prohibited

* Dexter, Mo., ban on open burning and fireworks. Dexter has also canceled its fireworks display.

* Bloomfield, Mo., issued a ban on all burning and personal fireworks until further notice, but it will continue with its July 4 fireworks celebration.

* Advance, Mo., and Bell City, Mo., have issued burn/fireworks bans.

* Essex, Mo., open burn ban and fireworks ban.

* Bertrand, Mo., no-burn order, fireworks banned

* Gideon, Mo., no-burn order and no fireworks allowed except on July 4.

* Union County, Ill., ban on open burning

Map of pertinent addresses

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