Perhaps the most patriotic way for northeast Indiana residents to celebrate the Fourth of July this year is to forgo using fireworks.
On Friday, the Allen County commissioners wisely voted to expand the countywide burn ban to expressly include personal fireworks.
We are always cognizant of what we might be doing to step on any toes of businesses that sell fireworks or people who enjoy firework displays, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said. Its not an easy decision, but public safety, in this case, far and away trumps anything else thats going on. Weve got to take that very seriously.
Peters said the commissioners consulted with all the fire departments within the county, including the Fort Wayne fire chief, and the verdict was that a ban on fireworks was needed for public safety. These guys are the experts, Peters said. They know what they are talking about and thats what they all said. It was unanimous!
The commissioners also asked communities and organizations planning professional fireworks displays to consider holding off until weather conditions are safer.
Several years ago, under heavy lobbying from the fireworks industry, the General Assembly legalized fireworks use and specifically mandated that fireworks be permitted from June 29 to July 9. But the entire state of Indiana is experiencing a drought. And the National Weather Service drought maps released Thursday show the northeast corner of the state, including Allen County, and the southwest corner of the state are experiencing the worst of the drought.
Officials in Allen County and elsewhere in the state believe the local burn bans, including bans on the use of fireworks even during the Independence Day holiday, are needed to prevent fires and protect citizens and their property.
The Indiana Fireworks Dealers Association, though, believes it knows better than fire officials and disputes that the dry weather increases the chance of properly used fireworks causing fires. The association has criticized local officials for instituting bans, saying they contradict state law, but will not sue any local governments.
A number of communities have already canceled or delayed their public fireworks displays. Many others will take additional safety precautions.
To celebrate Independence Day, wear red, white and blue from head to toe; eat ice cream; and gather with family and friends. But this year the best way to display loyalty to and love for country and community is to not set off any explosive devices.